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Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder 
The Humanist as Orator 

Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder 
The Humanist as Orator 

xexTS & STuDies 

Volume 163 

Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder 
The Humanist as Orator 

John M. McManamon, S. J. 

cneDiev^iL & ReKi2iissAKice rexTS & STuC>ies 

Tempe, Arizona 

The publication of this volume has been supported by grants 

from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation 

and Loyola University of Chicago. 

® Copyright 1996 
Arizona Board of Regents for Arizona State University 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Pierpaolo Vergio the elder : the humanist as orator / by John M. 

p. cm. — (Medieval & Renaissance texts & studies ; v. 163) 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

ISBN 0-86698-204-3 (alk. paper) 

1. Vergerio, Pietro Paolo, the Elder, 1370-1444. 2. Speeches, addresses, 
etc., Latin (Medieval and modern)— Italy— History and criticism. 3. Authors, 
Latin (Medieval and modem)— Italy— Biography. 4. Humanists— Italy— Biography. 
I. McManamon, John M. II. Series. 
PA8585.V397Z8 1996 

001.3'092-dc20 96-24767 

[B] CIP 


This book was edited and produced 

by MRTS at SUNY Binghamton. 

This book is made to last. 

It is set in Garamond Antiqua, 

smyth-sewn, and printed on acid-free paper 

to library specifications. 

Printed in the United States of America 

For my brothers: 

Tom, Dave, and Pat 

Table of Contents 

Preface IX 

Abbreviations XIII 

Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder: The Humanist as Orator 

Chapter 1 lustinopolitanus 1 

Chapter 2 Adolescence 17 

Chapter 3 Classicizing Oratory 31 

Chapter 4 Petrarch's Legacy 51 

Chapter 5 The Power of the Visible 71 

Chapter 6 A Humanist Education for Adolescents 89 

Chapter 7 Disenchantment at Court 105 

Chapter 8 Humanism's Patron Saint 121 

Chapter 9 Humanism and Church Reform 137 

Chapter 10 Imperial Bureaucrat 153 

Conclusion 169 

Bibliography 181 

Index 214 


MY research for several years has focused upon a key member of 
the third generation of humanists, Pierpaolo Vergerio the elder 
(ca. 1369-1444). Modern interest in Vergerio was spurred in a decisive 
way by Leonardo Smith who published his exhaustive edition of the 
humanist's correspondence in 1934. Smith's dogged search for materials 
from the life of Vergerio has remained a departure point for other 
scholars. Interest in Vergerio was renewed some thirty years after Smith, 
when Hans Baron and Eugenio Garin analyzed certain of his works as 
part of a wider appraisal of civic humanism and the crisis of the early 
Italian Renaissance. David Robey then engaged in mild polemic with 
Baron's interpretation of the thought of Vergerio. Robey justly broad- 
ened Baron's perspectives on Vergerio by taking into account the whole 
of his corpus. However, Robey has consistently emphasized the tradi- 
tional character of Vergerio's positions. My approach stresses his origi- 
nality. Vergerio's career and writings influenced the development of the 
young movement in several areas: its epistemology, ideology, education- 
al curriculum, emphasis on ethos, and its relationship to the university, 
to political authority, to religious belief, and to the visual arts. By 
emphasizing public service through oratory, Vergerio supplied a new 
matrix for Italian humanism. 

This biography will be supplemented by a second volume, which 
will contain a critical edition of Vergerio's panegyrics of Saint Jerome 
and an English translation of those works. In Latin citations for the 
biography, I have used the same criteria that I have employed in the edi- 
tion of the panegyrics. The virtual absence of autograph material by 
Vergerio makes it impossible to reconstruct his Latin orthography. 

X Preface 

Therefore, the orthography in the Latin citations has been standardized 
using the norms in the Oxford Latin Dictionary. Modern standards have 
been used as well for punctuation and capitalization. Angular brackets 
< > indicate letters, words, or passages added to the text on the belief 
that something was omitted in the course of transmission; square brack- 
ets [ ] indicate editorial deletions from the transmitted text. To make the 
volume as autonomous as possible, I decided to err on the side of inclu- 
siveness when citing Vergerio's works, even those published in modern 

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the assistance that I have received in 
bringing this book to completion. My primary debts are to the institu- 
tions which funded the research and to the libraries which facilitated it. 
I thank Gladys Krieble Delmas and the Foundation she has established 
for Venetian Research; her generosity has aided many scholars in study- 
ing the gamut of issues evoked by that most evocative of cities. I am 
likewise grateful to Loyola University of Chicago for paid research 
leaves that offered me that greatest of academic benefits: time to concen- 
trate on a single project. While working in Venice, I enjoyed the hospi- 
tality of the Jesuit Research Institute. This book owes a great deal to 
that Institute and its founders, Rev. Federico Lombardi, S. J., and Rev. 
Dino Faggion, S. J. The Jesuits of Campion Hall in Oxford offered me 
ideal quarters in which to conduct a summer's research. I also resided 
for lengthy periods within a stone's throw of the Pantheon at the Jesuit 
Collegio San Roberto Bellarmino. During those Roman sojourns, I was 
given support by Rev. Dominic Marucca, S. J., Rev. Bernard Hall, S. J., 
and a host of Jesuits from around the world. 

I am likewise grateful to the administration of the following libraries 
for answering my queries and for supplying photographic reproductions 
of Vergerio materials: the University Library in Cambridge; the Baye- 
rische Staatsbibliothek in Munich; the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris; 
Drs. Fiorella Romano and A. Garofalo of the Biblioteca Nazionale in 
Naples; Dr. Louis Jordan, the Curator of the Ambrosiana Collection at 
the University of Notre Dame; Mr. D. P. Mortlock, the Librarian at 
Holkham Hall in Norfolk; Ms. Fran Benham of the Pius XII Library at 
St. Louis University; Dr. Michelle Brown, Curator of Manuscripts at the 
British Library in London; Dr. B. C. Barker-Benfield, Senior Assistant 
Librarian at the Bodleian Library in Oxford; Dr. Gerd Brinkhus of the 
Universitatsbibliothek in Tubingen; Drs. Glauco Giuliano and Aldo 
Pirola of the Biblioteca Queriniana in Brescia; Prof. Luciano A. Floramo 
of the Biblioteca Guarneriana in San Daniele del Friuli; Dr. Antonio 

Preface H 

Antonioni of the Biblioteca Universitaria in Padua; Rev. Ugo Fossa of 
the BibHoteca del Monastero in CamaldoH; Dr. Claudine Lemaire of the 
Bibliotheque Royale Albert ler in Brussels; Rev. Pierantonio Gios of the 
Biblioteca del Seminario in Padua; Dr. Ernesto Milano of the Biblioteca 
Estense in Modena; Dr. M. Luisa Turchetti of the Biblioteca Nazionale 
Braidense in Milan; Dr. Emilio Lippi of the Biblioteca Comunale in Tre- 
viso; Dr. Nolden of the Stadtbibliothek in Trier; Rev. John Brudney, O. 
S. B., of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library at St. John's University; 
and Dr. Ramon Gonzalvez of the Archivo y Biblioteca Capitolares in 

Dr. Ennio Sandal, former director of the Biblioteca Comunale in 
Brescia, welcomed me in ways beyond the call of duty. I am also grate- 
ful to Dr. Dino Barattin, then director of the Biblioteca Comunale in 
San Daniele, who went so far as to have me sample the local prosciutto 
and put me in contact with Prof. Laura Casarsa of the University of 
Trieste, who shared her exhaustive description of San Daniele codex 144 
with me prior to its publication. There are four libraries where I passed 
many months consulting manuscripts and supporting materials: the Bod- 
leian Library in Oxford, the Museo Civico in Padua, the Biblioteca Na- 
zionale Marciana in Venice, and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in 
Vatican City. To their directors and employees I would like to say a 
special word of thanks and offer hope that the publication of this vol- 
ume in some way repays their collective confidence. That holds doubly 
for Rev. Leonard Boyle, O.P., who was kind enough to take time from 
his busy schedule and check two Vatican manuscripts for me. 

Concetta Bianca and Massimo Miglio gave their valuable time to help 
me rule out the presence of Giannandrea Bussi's hand in two Vatican 
codices. Armando Petrucci and Franca Nardelli offered assistance in 
matters of paleography and codicology and provided constant inspira- 
tion concerning a scholar's commitment. I am very grateful to Gianfran- 
co Fioravanti for reading the Latin texts of the Vergerio sermons with 
the careful eye that characterizes his editorial work in late medieval 
Latin. Lastly, throughout the years of preparation of this volume, I have 
relied in myriad ways on the friendship of Rev. Mark Henninger, S. J. 
And throughout, he has had a calming, sage influence on my work. 
None of these persons bears any responsibility, however, for the inevita- 
ble mistakes that have evaded their diligent scrutiny. 

I am very grateful to all involved in the publication of the Medieval 
& Renaissance Texts & Studies series. In particular, I thank the general 
editor of the series. Professor Mario Di Cesare, the professional referees 

xn Preface 

of my manuscript who made fine suggestions, and the diligent MRTS 
staff, all of whom provided invaluable assistance. Finally, I am most for- 
tunate to have three brothers who always offer me the broadest support, 
especially in the inevitable moments of self-doubt that accompany 
scholarly writing. Thus, it is to Tom, to Dave, and to Pat that I dedicate 
this book, and not only in the hope that it may spur them to buy me a 
draft when next we meet. 


The abbreviations for classical authors and works are taken from A 
Latin Dictionary, edited by Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short 
(New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962), vii-xi; and A Greek-English 
Lexicon, edited by Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1953), xvi-xli. 

BAV Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana 

BMC A Catalogue of Books Printed in the Fifteenth Century Now in 

the British Museum. Edited by R. Proctor and A. W. Pollard. 

12 vols. London, 1908-. 
Copinger W. A. Copinger. Supplement to Main's Repertorium Bihlio- 

graphicum. Part 2, Additions. 2 vols. London, 1898-1906. 
CSEL Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. Vienna, 1886-. 

CTC Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum. Edited by P. 

O. Kristeller and F. Edward Cranz. Washington, D.C.: 

Catholic Univ. of America Press, I960-. 
DBI Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Rome: Istituto della En- 

ciclopedia Italiana, I960-. 
Epist. Epistolario di Pier Paolo Vergerio. Edited by Leonardo Smith. 

Fonti per la storia d'ltalia pubblicate dall'Istituto storico ita- 

liano per il Medio Evo 74. Rome, 1934. 
GW Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. Leipzig, 1925-. 

Hain Ludovicus Hain. Repertorium Bibliographicum. Berlin, 1925. 

IGI Indice generale degli incunaboli delle biblioteche d'ltalia. 6 vols. 

Rome, 1943-81. 
IMU Italia medioevale ed umanistica 

xrv Abbreviations 

Iter Paul Oskar Kristeller. Iter Italicum. 6 vols. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 


PL Patrologia Latina. Edited by Jacques-Paul Migne. Paris, 1844- 


PPV Pierpaolo Vergerio the elder 

RIS Rerum Italicarum scriptores. Edited by Ludovico Antonio 

Muratori. Milan, 1723-51; n.s., Citta di Castello and Bolo- 
gna, 1900-. 

s.t. sine typographo (Publisher unknown) 

Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder 
The Humanist as Orator 



Sometime between 1368 and 1370, Pierpaolo Vergerio the elder was 
born to Ser Vergerio di Giovanni de' Vergeri and Ysabeta degli 
Azoni, who had married in 1360. Despite extensive research, scholars 
have been unable to fix the precise year of Vergerio's birth. ^ Shrouded 
in mystery, it is like many details of Vergerio's private life. His surviv- 
ing letters, which run to over four hundred pages in the modern edition, 
reflect his careful creation of a public personality. Vergerio permitted 
only rare glimpses of his private life. For example, Vergerio told us vir- 
tually nothing of his lineage or kinship. Later descendants traced the 
roots of the family to Verzerio III Luzzago, who led Brescian troops in 
storming the castle of San Martino di Gavardo in 1121. The memories 
of such feudal exploits show the family's tendency to justify a nobility 
that they only achieved in 1430. Vergerio's father worked as a notary 

' In "The Year of Leonardo Bruni's Birth and Methods for Determining the Ages of 
Humanists Bom in the Trecento," Speculum 52 (1977): 599-604, Hans Baron systematically 
reexamined the evidence and argued for a date of birth in 1368 or 1369. Vergerio asserted 
{Epist, 373) that Francesco Zabarella was not quite ten years older than himself, and 
Leonardo Smith {Epist, xiii n. 1) summarizes the documentary evidence which establishes 
that Zabarella was bom on 10 August 1360. Secondly, Baron cited the statutes of the 
University of Bologna from 1405, which required that a professor be twenty years old, and 
Vergerio is listed on the university rolls in 1388. The contrary evidence derives from a state- 
ment of Leonardo Bruni that Vergerio was much older than he {Commentarius, RIS, n.s., 
19.3:432). Baron determined that Bruni actually was bom in March of 1370 and interpreted 
Bruni's statement as a reflection of psychological inferiority before Vergerio's significant 
achievements. According to Baron, the two humanists were at most a few years apart in age. 
Baron rightly discarded the date of 23 July 1370 for Vergerio's birth because it represents 
an interpolation by a seventeenth-century biographer, perhaps Bartolomeo Petronio (see the 
Epist, 471). See also Giovanni Calo, "Nota vergeriana: II De ingenuis moribus e il supposto 
precettorato del Vergerio alia corte di Francesco Novello," Rinascita 2 (1939): 226-28. 


and managed through his professional activities and his wife's dowry to 
create a comfortable life for his family in Capodistria.^ 

Two childhood experiences, one of festive celebration and another of 
desperate flight, seared themselves into Pierpaolo Vergerio's memory. 
He connected both of them to the family's devotion to a local Christian 
hero, Saint Jerome. Vergerio harbored especially happy memories of a 
celebration on 30 September, when his family annually commemorated 
the feast of Saint Jerome. 

After my parents had attended the sacred rites celebrated in the 
appropriate and customary manner, they were accustomed for as 
long as their resources permitted (and they had clear memories 
that their own ancestors had done the same thing continuously 
on this feast day) to offer a solemn banquet for the indigent of 
the city. They attended first of all to the poor and then extended 
their largesse to friends, relatives, and domestic servants, thereby 
expressing their loyalty to the latter and their compassion toward 
the former. Insofar as my parents had the means to pay the costs 
of such a celebration, they eagerly desired to make all the others 
share in their own joy. We happily marked the feast day in pub- 
lic and private rituals. Now, however, after hostile fortune turned 
against us, unleashing war's destructive powers, only the desire 
remains. The celebration itself has ceased. Nevertheless, although 
I regret having nothing greater to offer in my state of poverty, I 
have vowed that, as long as I live, I will review the praises and 
excellent merits of Jerome in a speech before an assembly of the 
best citizens.^ 

^ Leonardo Smith, Epist., xi-xiii, 9-12 n. 1. Ysabeta degli Azoni was the daughter of 
Pietro degli Azoni, a citizen of Capodistria. Her new dowry contract was drafted before the 
podesta in 1383. Ysabeta brought her husband property valued at eight hundred lihri 
parvorum as well as five hundred libri parvorum in coins. On the noble status achieved by 
Vergerio di Simone (1430) and Colmano (1431), see Smith, Epist, 465 n. 3, 476-77 n. 3; Gre- 
gorio De Totto, "II patriziato di Capodistria," Atti e memorie della Societa istriana di 
archeologia e storia patria 49 (1937): 149-50; and Gedeone Pusterla, / nobili di Capodistria e 
dell'Istria con cenni storico-hnografici (2d ed. Capodistria, 1888), 18-19. For the capture of S. 
Martino di Gavardo, see also Alfredo Bosisio, "II Comune," in Dalle origini alia caduta della 
signoria viscontea (1426), vol. 1 of Storia di Brescia (Brescia, 1963), 587-88. 

^ See PPV, Sermo 5 pro Sancto Hieronymo: "Solebantparentes mei,dum fortuna letaeque 
res starent, atque id a suis fieri solitum commemorabant perpetuo hoc ipso festo die, cum 
sacra ritu debito et solito more peracta essent, sollemne convivium pauperibus facere — his 
quidem primum, tum et amicis, familiaribus atque domesticis hominibus — quo et in illos 
pietas et in hos alacritas funderetur. Omnes enim, quoad poterant et facultates suae ferre su- 
stinebant, gaudii sui studebant participes facere. Dies hie et foris et domi laetus agebatur. 

lustinopolitanus 3 

As Vergerio indicates, those idyllic days of family celebration ended 
abruptly during the War of Chioggia (1378-1381). The war pitted 
Venice against Genoa and embroiled the smaller states of northern Italy 
in the conflict as the two republics battled for commercial dominance. 
The Vergerio family, who lived in a small town of the Venetian Empire, 
found themselves dragged into the hostilities. That experience constitut- 
ed the second of Vergerio's vivid childhood memories. In 1380 Genoese 
troops raided the Istrian peninsula and set the torch to Capodistria itself. 
Vergerio de' Vergeri gathered up his family and fled into exile. The fam- 
ily eventually reached Cividale del Friuli and took refuge there for the 
next two years. And their patron saint did not abandon them in their 
hour of need. 

You no doubt recall, father, the miracles that Jerome worked on 
our behalf, miracles which I saw with my own eyes. During that 
wartime clash, when all were filled with terror and matters 
rushed toward destruction, who snatched us alive from multiple 
ambushes prepared against us? Who carried us safe and sound 
from the devastation and smoldering ashes of our depopulated 
homeland? Or, after we had left our ancestral land and received 
a friendly welcome on foreign soil, who carried us back home 
and assured our reintegration there in safety? Who finally saved 
your life, when under a sentence of death and exposed to such 
great dangers? Who else but the patron to whom we had commit- 
ted ourselves!"* 

Nunc vero, postquam bellicis fragoribus inimica fortuna res arbitrio suo vertit, mansit 
animus, cessit mos. Ego autem, qui nihil maius in tanta egestate quod tribuam habeo, de- 
crevi singulo anno dum vixero laudes Hieronymi et praeclara merita in conventu optimo- 
rum recensere. Si quando tamen fortuna placido vultu faverit, ne vetustum quidem morem 
familiae nostrae praetermittam." 

* Epist, 186-87: "Nam, ut omittam cetera, quae, ante illam tempestatem toti fere orbi 
cognitam, in qua et nos naufragium passi essemus nisi illius affuisset subsidium, certa de eo 
erga nos miracula recensebas, et ad ea veniam quae ipsemet vidi, quis nos eo belli fragore, 
quo cuncta terrebantur, cuncta / ruebant, ex tot paratis insidiis vivos eripuit? quis ex patriae 
populatae minis, ardentis cineribus, sanos et tutos evexit? aut quis patrium solum egressos 
ac in alieno benigne receptos olim in patriam et revexit ac in tuto reposuit? quis denique 
caput tuum damnatum, tot periculis expositum, nisi is cui fuerat commendatum, servavit 
incolume?" For the effects of the war on the Venetian regime, see Reinhold C. Mueller, 
"Effetti della Guerra di Chioggia (1378-1381) sulla vita economica e sociale di Venezia," 
Ateneo veneto, n.s., 19 (1981): 35-40; and Dennis Romano, Patricians and "Popolani": The 
Social Foundations of the Venetian Renaissance State (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins 
Univ. Press, 1987), 19, 28, 32-34, 128-29, 154-55. 


Later in life, Pierpaolo Vergerio nurtured pleasant memories of those 
two years in exile. Cividale del Friuli, set in a fertile valley, had citizens 
who showed themselves most benevolent toward his family.^ The war, 
however, had forever changed their status. Much of their patrimony was 
lost in the Genoese sack. Moreover, Vergerio's father had to account to 
the victorious Venetian authorities for fleeing to the territory of the pa- 
triarch of Aquileia, an ally of the Genoese. He almost lost his life, and 
he never succeeded in fully recovering his financial resources. At various 
junctures in the next twenty years, the family sold off properties to 
meet expenses. Vergerio's letters to wealthy friends often express his 
concern for the "most opulent misery" in which his parents had now to 
live.^ The banquet in Jerome's honor remained a conscious ideal, which 
Vergerio promised to revive if ever fortune's wheel might again spin in 
the family's favor. However, from the experiences of his childhood, Ver- 
gerio had learned that it was futile to struggle against fortune.'' Only 
the beneficence of a patron like Jerome had mitigated fortune's sting. 

Vergerio's cult of Jerome, a "local" saint, was one of the remarkably 
long-lived customs that Mediterraneans observed to commemorate the 
death of beloved ones. Those customs transcended the artificial bounds 
of institutionalized belief in order to express the deepest impulses of a 
common humanity.^ Like their Roman ancestors, the Vergerio family 
held a memorial banquet to mark the day of Jerome's birth to the after- 
life. While Vergerio never failed to honor that birthday, he left no indi- 

^ EpisL, xii-xiv, 100-101 ("Nam posteaquam puer, eversa natali patria, Forumiulii bien- 
nio cum parentibus incolui, ubi, quod semper prae me feram, et humanitate multa / et bene- 
ficiis plurimis comiter habiti, in summa calamitate fuimus, ita quidem penitus animo meo 
inhaesit sedes ilia terrarum ut postea semper loco patriae mihi haberetur"). For the strategic 
and commercial importance of the patriarchate of Aquileia, see Denys Hay and John Law, 
Italy in the Age of the Renaissance, 1380-1530, Longman History of Italy (London and New 
York: Longman, 1989), 232-36. 

* Epist., 9-11, 30, and esp. 141-42: "Parentes mei, ut plerique, ex angustia rei domesticae 
abire inde non possunt. Quamquam, O Deus, quid dixi angustiam, et non potius / summam 
atque opulentissimam miseriam?" Such letters constitute appeals for financial help. For the 
sale of properties, see the comments of Smith, ibid., lln. The fact that Vergerio's mother 
petitioned for a new dowry record in 1383 may have been an effort to save her possessions 
from the family's creditors. 

^ Epist, 6-7. 

* I am applying insights from the stimulating essay of Peter Brown, The Cult of the 
Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago, 
1981), which treats of the use of that cult by the elite of late Roman antiquity to enhance 
their political control. Affluent Christians of that era used funeral banquets as a way to 
assist the poor; see D. W. O'Connor, Peter in Rome: The Literary, Liturgical and Archeologi- 
cal Evidence (New York and London: Columbia Univ. Press, 1969), 148-49. 


cation of the date of his own birth. During the funerary banquet for the 
saint, the Vergerio family set aside the prevailing social distinctions of 
their world, as ancient Christians had done at the tombs of their heroes. 
For one brief moment, in deference to their powerful patron and his di- 
vine lord, class boundaries were ignored. The poor and the domestic ser- 
vants joined the family for their meal. As a small boy, Vergerio imbibed 
ideals of solidarity at a table set in charity. 

Yet such solidarity did not challenge the overarching structure of de- 
pendence suggested in the rite. Jerome functioned as a heavenly patron 
for the city of Capodistria as well as for the Vergerio household. The 
family first attended the public celebration of the feast in church before 
continuing that celebration in their own private ritual. The Vergerio 
family could never claim Jerome as their personal property; the cult had 
assumed a civic character. It would make no sense to attempt to use 
Jerome as the inspiration for rebellion against Venetian authority. Thus, 
the piety of the family tended to reinforce assumptions about legitimate 
imperial rule. The powerful Jerome had acted beneficently on behalf of 
his pious clients. Similarly, Venice's governing patricians acted benefi- 
cently toward loyal citizens in places like Capodistria. The basic move- 
ment of efficacious government was downward, from a magnanimous 
elite toward a populace in need. Ideals of unanimity and concord then 
spread horizontally outward from that basic vertical impulse. 

The history of Venetian dealings with Vergerio's hometown reflected 
such dynamics. In 1279, after centuries of close political collaboration, 
Venice had fully incorporated Capodistria into her burgeoning maritime 
empire. The entire Istrian peninsula supplied important necessities for 
the capital city. By ruling Istria, Venice assured herself a supply of agri- 
cultural products, of stone resistant to salt air, and of prostitutes to meet 
the steady demand of a port city. Meanwhile, the subject city of Capodi- 
stria managed to gain important privileges by exploiting the dialectic of 
cooperation and resistance. Collaboration in the early years of Venetian 
involvement led in 1182 to the designation of Capodistria as the sole un- 
loading port for salt between Grado and Promontore. An unsuccessful 
rebellion in 1348 induced the Venetian government to grant Capodistria 
greater local autonomy.' In both cases a generous patron had ultimately 

' On the relations between Venice and Capodistria, see Frederic C. Lane, Venice: A 
Maritime Republic (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973), 59-60; Fran- 
cesco Semi, Capodistria: Guida storica ed artistica con illustrazioni (Capodistria, [1930]), 5-6, 
8-10; Laura Gorlato, "La Repubblica di Venezia e le sue relazioni commerciali con la 


acted with mercy toward her cHent: that ancient social relationship still 
structured much of Vergerio's political society. 

Vergerio's parents had embraced Jerome as their saintly protector, to 
whom they might turn in a daily quest for safety and especially in times 
of crisis. The devotion of his parents led Vergerio to a relationship of 
special intimacy with Jerome, for Jerome became not only a patron and 
friend but increasingly an exemplar, who spurred him' to progress in 
learning. The embrace did not spare Vergerio from experiencing vulner- 
ability in a world marked by violent injustice. Notwithstanding a flour- 
ishing cult of local saints, Capodistria was destroyed by Genoese troops. 
To humiliate the city and its Venetian overlord, the enemy forces delib- 
erately destroyed the most telling symbols of civic life. They burned the 
Municipal Palace where the Venetian podesta resided, and they stole the 
relics of Saints Alexander and Nazarius before torching the cathedral. ^° 
A latter-day Aeneas, Vergerio's father snatched his family from the 
burning ruins of the patria and led them into temporary exile. 

During those traumas, however, Jerome did not abandon his devo- 
tees. He enveloped them in a mantle of protection during the flight, 
paved the way for their friendly reception in Cividale del Friuli, and 
then led them safely back to Capodistria in 1382. Once again, Pierpaolo 
Vergerio felt the sinister force of violence in his world. The restored 
Venetian authorities had condemned his father in absentia for treason 
because he had obtained refuge in a city allied with the Genoese. And 
once again, the family's patron saint intervened to assure that Vergerio's 
father would benefit from a wider amnesty. The condemnation was 
lifted after Vergerio's father had sworn loyalty to the Venetian re- 
gime. ^^ Vergerio envisioned in his mind's eye the sufferings of exodus 
and alienation that Jerome miraculously turned into occasions of protec- 
tion and reintegration. Jerome had graciously fulfilled his role as patron 
by appealing to the divinity to use divine power on behalf of devoted 

penisola istriana dal XI al XIII secolo," Pagine istriane 3-4 (1986): 19-21, 24, 27; and Guido 
Ruggiero, TTje Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice, Studies in 
the History of Sexuality 1 (New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 41-42. 

'° The relics were restored to Capodistria in 1422. Hymns written for that occasion 
were erroneously attributed to Vergerio; see Smith, Epist., 506. 

" Smith, Epist, 187 n. 1, cites a document dated 8 January 1382, in which Marino 
Memmo, the Venetian podesta, informed Doge Andrea Contarini (1368-82) that a group of 
exiles had asked for pardon upon returning to Capodistria and had promised perpetual 
loyalty to Venice. The group included Vergerio de' Vergerii. 


Jerome, therefore, functioned as a political force, righting injustice 
through acts of mercy. Vergerio saw those actions as evidence for the 
abundant mercy of God; as Peter Brown well stated, such acts were a 
"silver lining of amnesty" in the dark cloud of disorder and violence. ^^ 
Through the local legend that Jerome had grown up in Sdregna, a small 
town in the diocese of Capodistria, the young Vergerio possessed a phys- 
ical link to the area's perennial hero.^^ Through a vow to deliver a 
panegyric on the feast of Jerome, no matter where he found himself, the 
mature Vergerio sought to create a more reliable tie to his patron. The 
general etiquette of a patronage relationship acquired even deeper signifi- 
cance through a binding commitment freely made. Preaching offered a 
flexible means to maintain intimate companionship across physical dis- 
tance. In effect, Vergerio forced Jerome to travel with him. Morever, as 
Vergerio gradually discovered, preaching also offered him a means to dif- 
fuse the power of Jerome's presence to a wider world. He could urge 
others to imitate the most virtuous qualities of that patron. Vergerio 
entered the extended family of Jerome, armed with ideals of concord 
and solidarity for a world riven by social dependencies. By depending 
on a heavenly patron, Vergerio ultimately gained a healthy measure of 
independence for himself. During the moments of anxiety generated by 
his own uprootedness and insecurity, Vergerio found Jerome a consoling 

The rough antitheses proposed in Vergerio's earliest panegyrics for 
Jerome reflect Vergerio's own emerging values as he matured from 
childhood to adolescence. Vergerio admired Jerome's consistent choice 
of the upright course of action, which often defied the common wisdom 
of his world. By rating himself a poor learner, Jerome had made himself 
well equipped to teach others. By choosing a hermitage in Bethlehem, 

" Brown, Cult of Saints, 91. 

" On phonetic grounds, a medieval tradition identified Jerome's birthplace of Stridon 
with Sdregna (or Sdrigna in Italian). The tradition is recorded in loannes Andreae, Hierony- 
mianus, cod. Ottob. lat. 480, 16; and Flavio Biondo, Italia illustrata, 387-88. The tiny town 
(oppidulum) is located to the southeast of Capodistria, in the center of the Istrian peninsula 
between Pinguente and Portole. In 1828, Slavic Zrenj (or Zrinj) became part of the diocese 
of Trieste, when that diocese absorbed the bishopric of Capodistria. Koper (Capodistria) 
reacquired the status of a separate diocese in 1977. The exact location of Stridon is still a 
mystery. See J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York: 
Harper & Row, 1975), 3-5; and Giuseppe Cuscito, Cristianesimo antico ad Aquileia e in 
Istria, Fonti e studi per la storia della Venezia Giulia: Studi, n.s., 3 (Trieste: Deputazione di 
storia patria per la Venezia Giulia, 1977), 233-38. For Vergerio's sermons on Jerome, see 
chapter 8 below. 


Jerome had renounced certain election to the office of pope. Jerome had 
fled the city of Rome to be of benefit to the entire world. ^'* The last 
antithesis had a special appeal for Vergerio, providing him with a model 
of the mobility necessary for scholarly activity. Jerome left his tiny 
hometown of Stridon for Rome in order to study Latin grammar and 
become a better person. He left Rome when attacks by his jealous rivals 
destroyed his inner peace. From Rome he sailed for Greece, where he 
polished his considerable philological skills under the guidance of 
Gregory of Nazianzus. He finally embraced the life of a monk in Beth- 
lehem. Throughout his journey, Jerome had demonstrated detachment 
from material goods and patriotic sentiments; such detachment allowed 
his commitment to intellectual and moral priorities to flourish.^^ Ver- 
gerio admired Jerome's willingness to travel, and he justified his own 
journeys by comparing himself to his hero. 

Vergerio had discovered that he could not fulfill his great ambitions 
in a small town like Capodistria. "From boyhood the conviction took 
root in my soul that, were I able to live safely and protect my integrity, 
I would renounce my homeland." In letters written throughout his life 
and in a short, unfinished treatise, Vergerio expressed his ambivalent 
feelings toward his place of birth. ^^ Capodistria's setting in the gulf of 

'"^ See, e.g., PPV, Sermo 1: "Factus est enim iustissimus, dum se semper existimat pecca- 
torem, evenitque de ipso quod de alio ipsemet scribit, quod, dum se pauperem semper ad 
discendum credit, ad docendum locupletissimum se fecit. Ecce enim dum Romae ex suis 
meritis atque virtutibus dignus ab om <n > ibus summo sacerdotio creditur, ipse se dignum 
credidit qui in eremum iret ad sua peccata deflenda; dumque doctissimus ab omnibus et 
haberetur et diceretur, tunc demum Gregorio Nazianzeno se tradidit in disciplinam. Ex 
quibus factum est ut non tam summo pontificatu, ad quem etiam indigni pervenire possunt, 
quam regno caelorum, quo nullus pertingit indignus, se dignissimum redderet, et qui, si aliis 
forsitan de se credidisset, auctor plurimis fuisset erroris, humiliter de se sentiens, doctor 
factus est veritatis. . . ." See also PPV, Sermo 5 (dated 1392): "Hie cum esset in amplissimo 
gradu dignitatis, cum Romae optimus et doctissimus celebraretur, abiit potius et monasterii 
parietibus se inclusit; fugiens (quod tunc pulcherrimum et praecipuum in orbe erat) Romam, 
secessit in desertam solitudinem. ..." 

'^ See especially PPV, Sermo 6, which is structured upon an antithesis between Jerome's 
place of birth and his service to the entire Christian world ("Nihil igitur apud eum aut 
amor patriae aut attinentium caritas domusve aut vitae prioris consuetudo valuit quin pro 
eremo patriam, pro monasterio domum, pro monachis attinentes et notos vitamque civilem 
pristinam pro austerissima eremo commutaret"). In the panegyrics, Vergerio followed the 
chronology of Jerome's life as traditionally elaborated in medieval biographies; see Eugene 
Rice, Saint Jerome in the Renaissance (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 
1985), 25-28. 

'^ EpisL, 147: "Atque ita mihi a puero ea sententia animo stetit ut, si honeste tutoquc 
possim, patriam negem." See further Epist, 7, 27, 30, 36-37, 123-24, 126, 138-40, and 142- 
51; and De situ urbis lustinopolitanae, RIS 16:240A-41D. Vergerio's attitude toward Capo- 
distria is discussed by Maria Pia Billanovich, "Bernardino Parenzano e le origini di Capo- 


Trieste and its Roman past left him with a mild sense of pride. Especial- 
ly when approached by sea, the city stood forth in the natural beauty of 
its setting on a rocky projection in an inlet surrounded by cliffs of white 
stone. Vergerio noted that the optical illusion, whereby those cliffs 
seemed shaped like a goat, may explain the Greek name for the city, 
Aegida. Though the common people foolishly explained Capodistria as 
deriving from caput Istriae, given its proximity to the border of Istria at 
the Risano River, Vergerio intuited that the correct etymology derived 
from a Latin rendering of the expression "Istrian goat" {capris Istriae). In 
addition to the Latin etymology, Vergerio also pointed to historical evi- 
dence that linked his region closely to Rome. The emperor Augustus 
had extended the boundaries of the province of Italy to include the 
Istrian peninsula, and Vergerio had seen archaeological remains from 
Roman antiquity during his visits to nearby Trieste. 

Vergerio was particularly intrigued to discover when and why people 
had begun to call the city lustinopolis. Some claimed that the name 
should be traced to the emperor Justin II (565-578), though Vergerio 
could find no documentary or epigraphical evidence to verify that 
hypothesis. Others saw it as an association with the historian lustinus, 
who had narrated the legendary settlement of the Colchians in Istria 
after their unsuccessful attempt to recover the golden fleece. Vergerio 
favored this explanation, though he also offered the possibility that the 
name derived from some unknown lustinus. Vergerio's investigations to 
establish the correct etymology of Capodistria and lustinopolis reveal 
the characteristics of his historical methods. He sought evidence to 
defend his conclusions in documents and in archaeological remains such 
as inscriptions. In the absence of conclusive evidence, he offered multi- 
ple hypotheses. The more popular an explanation was among the com- 
mon people, the less Vergerio tended to trust it. 

Closer scrutiny of the city and personal experience of its political life 
gave Vergerio sufficient cause to dislike his hometown. He felt that geo- 
graphical liabilities affected the moral quality of life in Capodistria. Like 
classical theorists, Vergerio suggested a close tie between environment 
and moral behavior.^'' To reach the city by land, one had to cross a 

distria," IMU 14 (1971): l(i3-70, and David Robey, "Aspetti deirumanesimovergeriano," in 
Vittore Branca and Sante Graciotti, eds., L'umanesimo in Istria, Civilta veneziana: Studi 38 
(Florence: Olschki, 1983), 8. 

'^ Ciceronian descriptions of cities like Athens and Thebes suggested that living condi- 
tions to a significant extent shaped human temperament; see Cicero Fat. 4.7. The corpus of 


narrow path through a fetid swamp formed by silt deposits from the 
Risano River. That situation offered a possible explanation why the 
Slavs had chosen the name Koper for the city. Koper constituted a Slavic 
cognate derived from the Greek words for dung {kopros) or dunghill 
{kopria). Capodistria's infected air caused fever among the inhabitants. 
Those physical maladies in turn produced negative moral effects. The 
city was riddled by dissension as factions favorable and opposed to 
Venetian hegemony played a bloody game of dominance. ^^ 

Vergerio, therefore, looked upon the Istrian area as "undistin- 
guished" [ignobilis) and Capodistria as "luckless" {infausta). Having 
experienced misfortune as a child in Capodistria, Vergerio eventually 
saw that quality as endemic to the town where he had grown up. 
Capodistria lacked precisely those qualities that would make an urban 
setting ideal for the practice of public service: his city had no knowledge 
{scientia) and love for virtue, and consequently gave no reward to those 
who pursued that worthy combination of learning and moral living. 
Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna, a cherished mentor, once objected to 
Vergerio 's negative characterization of Capodistria. By way of rebuttal, 
Conversini cited Jerome as an example of an excellent man who had 
grown up in the region. Vergerio granted that Jerome's prestige in- 
creased the historical significance of his region. In the end, however, 
Jerome too had left the region to pursue virtue and acquire fame. Great 
deeds needed a sufficient public or they would never have their inspira- 
tional impact. Even Conversini admitted that the Istrian peninsula was 
so isolated that scholars who resided there found themselves with little 
to do. That led many to drink heavily in order to compensate for their 

Vergerio moved frequently early in life, following the example set by 
his patron Jerome. The most plausible reconstruction of his activities in 

Hippocrates included a short work entitled On Airs, Waters, Places which explored the 
effects of climate and locale on health and on ethnic and cultural differences; see Edwin 
Burton Levine, Hippocrates, World Author Series 165 (New York: Twayne Publishers, 
1971), 128-50. In general, see the trenchant observations of Ann C. Vasaly, Representations: 
Images of the World in Ciceronian Rhetoric (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford: Univ. of 
California Press, 1993), 131-55. 

'* Epist., 146-47: "Cum enim a maioribus meis audiissem, qua ilia dignitate urbs totaque 
erat quondam provincia, qua fortuna res publica quaque virtute homines, tum postea et 
vidissem puer et sensissem praesens, qua esset miseria, quo exterminio, qua calamitate, indi- 
gna res mihi visa est planeque miseranda. Cum autem praefuisse et dura odia et seditiones 
graves et tectas inter se civium simultates accepissem, notaremque in dies / magis mores 
atque animos hominum, non frustra evenisse omnia vitio suo iudicavi." 

lustinopolitanus 11 

the decade beginning in 1380 involves extensive travels. By the decade's 
end, Vergerio was surely a skilled horseman.^' In 1380, he left Capodi- 
stria for political exile in Cividale del Friuli. The family returned to 
Capodistria in 1382, when his father felt confident of obtaining a pardon 
from Venice. There are indications that in 1384 Vergerio visited Aqui- 
leia, returning to Capodistria shortly thereafter. An early biographer 
posited that Vergerio resided in Padua in 1385 in order to study Latin 
grammar, and it seems virtually certain that Vergerio taught dialectic in 
Florence from 1386 to 1387.^° In the first months of 1388, Vergerio 
transferred his teaching activities to the University of Bologna; during 
the summer recess, however, he returned home to Capodistria. He 
stopped in Padua before returning to Bologna in the fall of 1388 to 
resume his teaching duties. In the spring of 1390, he fled an outbreak of 
the plague in Bologna and sought refuge in Capodistria. By May, he had 
returned to the University of Bologna, which he definitively abandoned 
late in 1390 in order to matriculate at Padua. Vergerio almost always 
traveled because his educational activities, which shaped his priorities 
throughout his adolescence, required that he do so. 

Such mobility took an emotional toll on the young traveler. Verge- 
rio's letters reflected an only child's anxiety for the well-being of his 
parents. Every time he left Capodistria, his parents had to fend for 
themselves.^^ Furthermore, Vergerio maintained his freedom to move 
about by choosing not to marry. His father had urged his son to consid- 
er marriage as a potential economic investment; an ample dowry could 
help to restore the family's affluence. Vergerio admitted the wisdom of 
his father's advice, but money wasn't that important to him. Bachelor- 
hood helped to assure Vergerio 's liberty; as a bachelor, he could pursue 
his studies without distraction. Moreover, he was timid with women, 
and he thought them domineering. With respectful regret, Vergerio 
decided to reject his father's recommendation. He could hardly claim to 
be concerned for the poverty of his parents if he simply dismissed his 

The following chronology is based upon the reconstruction of Smith, Epist., xii-xiv, 
3-46. Cf. ibid., 210-11, for Vergerio's experiences in Rome in 1398, when his riding skills 
helped him avoid serious trouble. 

^ Ronald Witt graciously shared with me the typescript of an article entitled "Still the 
Matter of the Two Giovannis," which will be published in Rinascimento. In that study, 
Witt posits that, during this Florentine sojourn, Vergerio may well have studied rhetoric 
under the tutelage of Giovanni Malpaghini da Ravenna. 

^' See, e.g., Epist., 30: "Magis me gravat et maxime torquet parentum inopia, qui non 
aeque patienter ut vellem incommoda sua ferunt." 


father's proposal. Thus, he conceded that he would take a wife, but only 
if his father ordered him to do so, which never happened. The entire 
experience gave the son a renewed appreciation for the respect shown to 
him by a tolerant father. Rather than compel Vergerio to act against his 
wishes, his father had left the decision in his hands.^ 

Not surprisingly, Vergerio battled loneliness in those years on the 
move. At times, he attempted to overcome his isolation by embracing a 
Stoic asceticism. More frequently, he sought to create a circle of friends 
through his correspondence. His insistent requests for letters more than 
once irritated his acquaintances. Still, he pressed them for some form of 
response. Some of those friendships seem more the product of Verge- 
rio's willpower than of mutual esteem. Other friendships proved to be 
genuine and supportive. While Vergerio was teaching dialectic in Flor- 
ence, he came to know Coluccio Salutati and Francesco Zabarella. Those 
two older scholars remained a fundamental influence upon Vergerio 's 
life until their deaths in 1406 and 1417 respectively. In important ways 
Salutati and Zabarella exemplified for Vergerio alternative responses to 
the question of the intellectual's role in society. Salutati had capitalized 
on his rhetorical skills to gain employment in the government of 
various communes and ultimately won appointment as chancellor of the 
Florentine Republic; he thereby established himself as undisputed leader 
of the humanist avant-garde. Zabarella, on the other hand, found his 
opportunity within the intellectual establishment; as a cleric he taught 
canon law at the University of Florence and later at Padua. Both men- 
tors will play an important role in the story to unfold.^^ Vergerio in- 

^ Epist., 131-37. Cf. ibid., 155-56, 182-83, where Vergerio comments further on 
women; and ibid., 481-82, where evidence suggests that Vergerio commended Charondas, 
the Catanian lawgiver (sixth century BC), for outlawing a second marriage. Vergerio felt 
that, if a first marriage made one unhappy, it was insane to try again. 

^ For Salutati's career, see Berthold Louis Ullman, 77?e Humanism of Coluccio Salutati, 
Medioevo e umanesimo 4 (Padua: Antenore, 1963); and Ronald G. Witt, Hercules at the 
Crossroads: The Life, Works, and Thought of Coluccio Salutati, Duke Monographs in Medieval 
and Renaissance Studies 6 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1983). Gasparo Zonta's biog- 
raphy of Zabarella, Francesco Zabarella (1360-1417) (Padua, 1915), should be supplemented 
by Thomas E. Morrissey, "Emperor-Elect Sigismund, Cardinal Zabarella, and the Council 
of Constance," The Catholic Historical Review 69 (1983): 353-70; Morrissey, "Franciscus 
Zabarella (1360-1417): Papacy, Community, and Limitations Upon Authority," in Guy 
Fitch Lytle, ed.. Reform and Authority in the Medieval arui Reformation Church (Washington, 
D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1981), 37-54; Agostino Sottili, "Laquestione cicero- 
niana in una lettera di Francesco Zabarella a Francesco Petrarca (tav. IV)," Quademi per la 
storia dell'Universita di Padova 6 (1973): 30-38; Annalisa Belloni, Professori giuristi a Padova 
nel secolo XV: Prqfili bio-bibliograftci e cattedre, lus Commune: Studien zur europaischen 
Rechtsgeschichte 28 (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1986), 204-8; and the forthcom- 

lustinopolitanus 13 

creasingly focused his studies in an effort to bridge the gap between the 
academic and political worlds. 

The disruptive experiences of his childhood continued to affect 
Vergerio's sensitivities as he matured. In what may be his earliest letter, 
written around the age of fifteen, Vergerio indicated that he had origi- 
nally desired to become a merchant {negotiator) in order to assure finan- 
cial security. By seeking the guidance of a successful merchant, Vergerio 
hoped to acquire the skills of a shrewd businessman and go from pover- 
ty to quick wealth.^"* Vergerio soon lost interest in the life of a mer- 
chant; however, his experience taught him to attend to the internal dis- 
positions typical of various stages in human development. When Verge- 
rio wrote that letter, he had already begun to reflect on the psychology 
of learning. Vergerio noticed that new apprentices burned with a curiosi- 
ty to learn as much as possible about their prospective trade. Their zeal, 
however, was tempered by the repetitive discipline required to master a 
trade. Educators needed to exploit the enthusiasm of youth for the 
novelty of learning and ease them through the boredom that inevitably 
followed.^^ Deciding not to become a merchant, Vergerio found his 
first job as a tutor of dialectic in Florence from 1386 to 1387.^^ 

ing monograph by Girgensohn (mentioned by Belloni). For examples of Vergerio's insistent 
requests for friendship, see his letters to Santo de' Pellegrini, Antonio Baruffaldi, and Ugo 
da Ferrara in Epist., 15-18, 20-23. Information on Santo de' Pellegrini is found in Attilio 
Hortis, "Di Santo de' Pellegrini e di Blenghio de' Grilli lettera a Carlo de' Combi," Arch- 
eografo triestino, ser. 2, 8 (1881-82): 407-8. Pellegrini, through his wife, was distantly related 
to the Vergerio family and was a partisan of the cause of the patriarch of Aquileia. 

^* EpisL, 3-5: "Nuper enim nescio quo artifice negotiator effectus, quaecumque / ad 
huiuscemodi negotium necessaria sunt, quoad potero, undique adminicula conquirere statui, 
quibus et dives et in futuris agibiVlibus quae ad me attinet cautus fiam." See also Baron, 
"Year of Bruni's Birth," 604 n. 52. 

^ Epist., 3: "Indulgentiori cura solent artifices novi, cum primum arti se cuipiam dede- 
rint, quae ad artis suae pertineant rudimenta perquirere quam dum in ea desudaverint et 
assuetudine fuerint confricati. Tunc etiam aut disciplinam nacti aut fastidio territi a sua 
curiositate desistunt, quam prius errandi metu et ardore novo discendi indefesse tractaverant. 
Consimilique modo et eadem causa infantes ac pueri omnia visendi, omnia audiendi cupidi 
magis sunt quam ad virilem aetatem usque provecti. Illis enim tamquam noviter in lucem 
editis omnia nova sunt, quae alii propter consuetudinem audire et videre parcius appetunt." 

^* Epist, 243, where Vergerio notes that he taught dialectic in Florence as an adolescent 
("dialecticam ibi iuvenis docui"), and ibid., 364, where, in a posthumous commemoration 
for Francesco Zabarella written in 1417, he states that the two first met nearly thirty years 
ago in Florence ("Florentiae ilium primum novi ante triginta fere annos"). Leonardo Smith, 
Epist, xiv, and David Robey, "P. P. Vergerio the Elder: Republicanism and Civic Values in 
the Work of an Early Italian Humanist," Past and Present, no. 58 (February 1973): 33, date 
this Florentine sojourn to 1386-87. Calo, "Nota vergeriana," 228-29, felt that Vergerio 
most likely taught as a private master, though he may have served as a tutor {ripetitore) for 
a university professor. 


We have almost no information about Vergerio's studies prior to his 
beginning to offer lessons in dialectic. Previous biographers have specu- 
lated that he learned grammar and dialectic at schools in his hometown 
of Capodistria (1382-1385) and at Padua (1385). Because Vergerio's 
father had boarded his legal ward, Rantulfo del Tacco, at the school of 
a local Paduan master, it may be that he attempted to arrange the same 
opportunity for his son.^^ If so, Pierpaolo Vergerio would have com- 
pleted his earliest studies as a boarding student in the home of his 
master. The traditional curriculum in the Veneto included studying the 
alphabet by using a primer, studying Latin grammar by using the 
manual attributed to Donatus, and studying Latin stylistics by scrutiniz- 
ing the works of such poets as Virgil, Lucan, and Terence. The use of 
poetry in advanced grammatical studies had the further advantage of ex- 
ercising a student's memory. Vergerio poured the money that he had 
earned by tutoring students in dialectic back into his own further edu- 

Whatever his preparation, Vergerio quickly acquired a love for the 
Latin language. Vergerio's curiosity led him to trace his family name 
from the Italian words for a type of cabbage {verze) and for an orchard 
[verzierej to the equivalent Latin term for orchard, viridarium. In his 
first writings, Vergerio occasionally signed himself as Vergerius Faciatus, 
punning on the image of a well-tended garden. Significantly, he soon 
abandoned that playful epithet and shifted to a title of greater classical 
significance, Petruspaulus lustinopolitanus. The change reflects a growing 
sense of historical consciousness vital to the humanist enterprise. Facia- 
tus comprised a medieval Latin term unknown to the ancients; lustinopo- 
litanus linked Vergerio to the Roman heritage of his hometown of 
Capodistria. The change may well be the fruit of Vergerio's participa- 
tion in the discussions of the circle of humanists, who met under Coluc- 
cio Salutati's guidance at the convent of Santo Spirito during Vergerio's 
first stay in Florence.^^ Vergerio gave further proof for his admiration 

^^ Smith, Epist., xiv, who cites evidence in the biography of Vergerio attributed to Barto- 
lomeo Petronio (ibid., 471: "Anno vero eiusdem 1385 post bellum Genuense lustinopoli 
Paduam migravit, ubi primo grammaticam et dialecticam quemadmodum a iunioribus solet 
didicit"). See ibid., 100-101 n. 1, 473n, for Vergerio de' Vergeri's trip to Padua in 1381 to 
visit Rantulfo del Tacco. The basic course of grammatical studies is described in Paul F. 
Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 1300-1600 (Baltimore and 
London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1989), 17, 29-33, 111-17. 

^* Epist., 62-63, esp. 63 (Vergerio to Salutati): "Disputationem de virtute, qualem crebro 
in conventu praesentium habere soles, litteris adhibe." 

lustinopolitanus 15 

for Salutati in his lengthiest autograph sample. In 1388, he copied from 
the Latin translation of Calcidius those sections of Plato's Timaeus 
which dealt with the physical powers of the body. The ductus is of high 
quality, especially the brief colophon at the conclusion. And the script 
closely mirrors elements of the new proposal for writing that Salutati 
had launched in those same years. Vergerio wished to emulate the pres- 
tigious chancellor in his avant-garde learning.^' Therefore, he wrote 
according to Salutati's revision of Semigothic script and then signed him- 
self Petruspaulus lustinopolitanus. 

Eugenio Garin has characterized the last half of the fourteenth 
century as the "heroic period of preparation" for the full birth of the 
humanist movement. Vergerio was born into an epoch of violent 
contrasts and significant struggles. According to his way of thinking, the 
War of Chioggia had involved all the world's major powers. Periodic 
outbreaks of plague and roaming bands of Christian zealots like the 
Bianchi further disturbed his society. In response to the dislocations 
caused by the War of Chioggia, the Venetian state had increasingly in- 
truded into private affairs by extending its network of patronage. 
Vergerio's earliest impressions of political power were shaped by the dy- 
namic of such patronage. In his volatile world, Jerome had become a 
reliable fixed point. Subsequently, Vergerio began to find dependable 

^ The text is preserved in Venice, Bibl. Nazionale Marciana, cod. Marc. laL XIV.54 (4328), 
fol. lOlr-v (reproduction in Smith, Epist, Tav. II facing 24). The Vergerio material is a separate 
fascicle inserted into an autograph codex of Pietro da Montagnana. For Salutati's prc^xjsed reform, 
see Berthold Louis Ullman, The Origin and Development of Humanistic Script (Rome: Edizioni di 
Storia e Letteratura, 1960), 13-19; Ullman, Humanism, 129-209; Armando Petrucci, II protocoUo 
notarile di Coluccio Salutati (1372-73) (Milan: Giuffre, 1963), 21-45; and Albinia de la Mare, The 
Handwriting of Italian Humanists (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), 1:30-43. Several characteris- 
tics are typical of Salutati's reform: the sharp clarity, descenders below the line on minuscule/and 
s, oscillation between miniscule d with or without a loop on the ascender (angled to the left), 
varieties of final miniscule s, rustic maiuscule A, and a maiuscule N whose final stroke resembles 
a /. Vei^erio retained the Gothic characteristic of fusing opposite curves, and he added loc^ on 
the ascenders of minuscule h and /. He generally composed minuscule x in a single stroke. He 
used the Tironian notes for et and con- and a paragraph sign that evolved from his majuscule S. 
There is also a marginal correction in Vergerio's hand in a manuscript of the Gesta ma^ifica 
domus Carrariensis, on which Vergerio drew heavily for his biographies of the Carrara; see the 
reproduction in Roberto Cessi's edition, RIS, n.s., 17.1.2 (Tav. 1). I only recendy learned of 
another group of manuscripts that apparently contain autograph glosses by Vei^erio. In Chapter 
10 below, I discuss their importance as revealed in the study of Klara Csapodi-Gardonyi, Die 
BMiothek des Johannes Vitiz, Studia Humanitatis-. Veroffentlichungen der Arbeitsgruppe fiir 
Renaissanceforschung 6 (Budapest: Akademia Kiado, 1984), 18-28. On the mistaken attribution 
of other codices to Vei^rio, see the comments of Alessandro Perosa, "Per una nuova edizione 
del Paulus del Vergerio," in Vittore Branca and Sante Graciotti, eds., L'umanesimo in Istria, Civilta 
veneziana: Studi 38 (Florence: Olschki, 1983), 316-17. 


sources of support in intellectual mentors like Coluccio Salutati and 
Francesco Zabarella. And he found the structures of Latin grammar {lit- 
terae) a force for cohesion, which offered possibilities for verbal expres- 
sion and moral persuasion. The seeds for his vocation as humanist had 
been planted; however, before Vergerio could nurture them to fruition, 
he first had to complete his university degree.^° 

^ Eugenic Garin, "La cultura fiorentina nella seconda meta del '300 e i 'barbari Bri- 
tanni,' " La rassegna della letteratura italiana 64 (1960): 181-82; and Michael Baxandall, 
Giotto and the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial 
Composition 1350-1450, Oxford-Warburg Studies 6 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), 7, 49. 



In 1388, when he was about twenty years old, Pierpaolo Vergerio 
began to lecture in logic at the University of Bologna while he contin- 
ued his own degree studies. Vergerio lived a life similar to that of a 
graduate assistant in a modern American university and seemed to find 
it just as unrewarding. He earned a minimal salary to offer a propaedeu- 
tic course and juggled his teaching obligations with his efforts to 
complete an advanced program.^ Previous scholars have had difficulty 
in reconstructing the precise order and duration of Vergerio 's studies. In 
general, he is fairly characterized as a professional student: one degree 
usually led to the pursuit of another. The best evidence indicates that 
Vergerio was engaged in studies at Bologna from 1388 to 1390, that he 
also went for a time to Padua in 1388 "for the sake of his studies," that 
his friend Santo de' Pellegrini addressed him with jocular respect as "a 
doctor of arts lecturing on logic" during his years in Bologna, and that 
the archdeacon of Bologna, Antonio Caetani, granted him a special 
indult to take examinations there even though he could not pay the 
required fees. Vergerio ended his sojourn at Bologna in the second half 

' See Umberto Dallari, / rotuli dei lettori legisti e artisti dello Studio bolognese dal 1384 al 
1799 (Bologna, 1888-91; repr. Bologna, 1919-24), 1:7 (cited by Leonardo Smith, Epist., 22-23 
n. 1), where Vergerio is listed among the lecturers in the Arts Faculty of the University of 
Bologna in the year 1388-89: "Ad lecturam loycae, Magister Petruspaulus electus pro Uni- 
versitate." Like most lecturers, Vergerio earned a salary of fifty lire bolognesi. The university 
also had "grammarians" attached to the teaching faculty; they received the same pay to 
teach an introductory course in Latin to students about to pursue a university degree. See, 
in general, Paul F. Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 1300-1600 
(Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1989), 26-29. 


of 1390 because he had transferred to the University of Padua as a 
"doctor of arts" by May of 1391. ^ 

Vergerio has left us a clearer record of his state of mind during those 
years at the University of Bologna. In the winter of 1389, he confided 
the level of his frustrations to his fellow Capodistrian, Santo de' Pelle- 

With Seneca and Cicero for your companions, you lead your 
tranquil life, you manifest firm self-possession, and without any 
fear of fortune, you walk securely under the guidance of those 
tutors from the classical era. I, however, am far removed from 
your studies and far separated from your peacefulness. I pass 
night and day in garrulous debate, I build snares and fold curves 
by means of which I am able to trap a cunning sophist. More- 
over, I investigate the wonderful effects of nature. Through it all 
I find myself jealous of your lifestyle and desirous of your mature 
leisure. Perhaps that derives from the human suspicion that "the 
grass is always greener on the other side." It may also be the case 
that your lifestyle is objectively better than mine. You examine 
what is morally upright while I examine what is true and what 
through contemplation of itself perfects the divine force placed 
within us.^ 

^ Epist., 125: "Ipse [Caetani] vero recognovit me protinus, non quidem nominatim, ut 
qui nulla ei familiaritate iunctus essem, sed quern aliquando ad se venientem audisset, 
crebroque Bononiae, dum in studiis ageremus, vidisset. Beneficii, quod in me tunc contulit, 
memoriam ei feci, nam universam examinis conventusque mei impensam, quae ad se specta- 
bat, mihi remisit." The university annually allowed a small group of students to petition for 
a degree gratis or at university expense. By the time of this letter (1395), Caetani had be- 
come patriarch of Aquileia; for his career, see Dieter Girgensohn, "Caetani, Antonio," DBI 
16:115-19. Vergerio later passed public examinations at Padua on 5-7 March 1405. See also 
Epist., 4, for Vergerio's presence in Padua "studiorum gratia"; ibid., 26, for Santo's greeting 
"artium doctori nunc actu logicam legenti Bononiae"; and ibid., xv, 107, 484n. In general, 
see Paul Oskar Kristeller, "Philosophy and Medicine in Medieval and Renaissance Italy," in 
Stuart F. Spicker, ed.. Organism, Medicine and Metaphysics: Essays in Honor of Hans Jonas, 
Philosophy and Medicine 7 (Dordrecht, Holland, and Boston: D. Reidel, 1978), 33-36; and 
Pearl Kibre, "Arts and Medicine in the Universities of the Later Middle Ages," in Jozef 
Ijsewijn and Jacques Paquet, eds.. The Universities in the Late Middle Ages, Mediaevalia Lova- 
niensia 1.6 (Leuven: Leuven Univ. Press, 1978), 216-27. 

^ Epist, 13: "His comitantibus, vitam tuam tranquillus agis, te tibi possides et absque ul- 
lo fortunae terrore, his tutoribus, secure incedis. Ego vero longe a studiis tuis absens, longe 
otio tuo dispar, noctem diemque garrula disceptatione consumo, texo laqueos, complico 
sinus, quibus argutum possim interceptare sophistam. Miros insuper naturae effectus studio- 
sus inquiro, tuae (nescio an quia nemini sors sua placeat an quia praeclarior tua sit) vitae 
semper invidus et maturi otii tui cupidus. Tu ergo quid honestum, ego quid verum rebus 
insit perscrutor, quid divinam vim nobis insitam sui contemplatione perficiat, ex hoc forte 

Adolescence 19 

As the letter to Santo indicated, Vergerio combined his teaching with 
continued study, focusing upon natural philosophy within the tradition- 
al arts curriculum. Because physical health for him was a gift of nature, 
he could accept occasional illness as unavoidable. However, Vergerio be- 
came somewhat obsessed with the personal commitment required to 
achieve a moral character."* He confessed to discouragement, unhappi- 
ness, and agitation — typical symptoms of depression. Various causes con- 
tributed to his spiritual malaise. He surely found his teaching assignment 
less than satisfying. When offering lessons in dialectic, Vergerio found 
himself immersed in a world of rancorous verbal contention. He dedi- 
cated much of his intellectual energy to exposing the pretensions of 
modern-day sophists and hardly won friends thereby. He remained dis- 
satisfied in pursuing a truth so devoid of moral content: one need only 
trap the opponent into revealing his logical error .^ 

Such involvement in unsatisfactory teaching activities, however, also 
robbed Vergerio of the possibility of focusing his energies. He had to 
divide his time between giving lessons and advancing his own studies 
and found it difficult to concentrate on the latter. Modern pyschologists 
have explored the fatigue which work habits, filled with constant inter- 
ruptions, cause a human being. It is analogous to the rapid weariness 
that humans experience in an art museum. As one concentrates closely 
on one painting and then on another, the mere act of concentration be- 
comes more difficult and more taxing. Vergerio experienced similar fa- 
tigue and frustration. He did not teach what interested him, and he 
found himself too tired after teaching to make steady progress in his 
own studies. Thus, he felt increasingly disillusioned as he was unable to 
fulfill his various commitments.^ 

studio plurimum perfectionis et gloriae adepturus." Gilles Gerard Meersseman, "Seneca mae- 
stro di spiritualita nei suoi opuscoli apocrifi dal XII al XV secolo," IMU 16 (1973): 45, noted 
Seneca's disdain for dialectical hair-splitting and metaphysical speculation. 

* Epist, 41: "Sanum enim esse et robustum et velocem et cetera huiuscemodi naturae 
sunt munera; virtuosum autem et bene moratum nostri muneris est." 

* Epist, 12-13 (see n. 3 above) and 30: "Miraris et tu, meae conditionis non inscius, quo- 
modo garulis sophismatibus circumsessus tantum oratoris gradum scandere et, quod plus di- 
cis, retinere valuerim." In general, see Neal W. Gilbert, "The Early Italian Humanists and 
Disputation," in Anthony Molho and John A. Tedeschi, eds.. Renaissance Studies in Honor 
of Hans Baron (Florence: Sansoni, and De Kalb, 111.: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 1971), 

^ Epist, 19-20 ("tot enim diversa, praeter studii mei curas, inopinate subserpunt, ut nee 
studiis nee tibi nee mihi / impendam quod debeo, sed variis quibusdam cogitatibus et me 
graviier torquentibus continue sum intentus") and ibid., 29-30. 


The external circumstances of Vergerio's life often deepened his sense 
of frustration. In keeping with Stoic ideals, Vergerio tried to conceive of 
his poverty as the nurturing companion of a true sage, but he could not 
hide the fact that he found poverty nettlesome {molesta)/ Worse yet, he 
found himself condemned to live in an age whose culture did not reach 
the metaphorically banal quality of lead; he disparaged it as an age of 
dirt or clay or sand. Fortune had tragically unleashed two of her most 
powerful furies: war and plague. The city of Bologna was threatened in 
those years by the advance of Giangaleazzo Visconti, who had already 
led his Milanese forces to victory over the Delia Scala despot (signore) of 
Verona and the Carrara despot of Padua. So bloody and ubiquitous did 
the succession of campaigns prove that Vergerio calculated an exponen- 
tial increase in the horrors that they engendered. However, one could 
adopt defensive measures in military combat. Plague seemed even more 
insidious to the young professor because neither physical strength nor 
mental acumen offered any safe refuge. Only work distracted Vergerio 
from his fear of contracting the plague; he described himself as so busy 
that he, did not even have time to die.^ 

If the years at the University of Bologna gave Vergerio cause for 
much agitation, they also allowed him to explore remedies for his un- 
happiness. He gravitated at times toward the Stoic doctrine of impassivi- 
ty, inspired by his reading of the Roman philosopher, Seneca. Vergerio 
sensed that the tranquility of Santo de' Pellegrini's life was authentic be- 
cause it derived from a leisurely communing with the written legacy of 
Roman Stoicism. To carry on imaginary dialogue with an author such 

^ Epist, 30 ("Paupertate igitur, ut tu me hortaris, minime moveor; earn enim iam mihi 
quodammodo in nutricem assumpsi, et quamvis aliquando molestam habuerim, nunc earn 
ut placidam hospitem teneo") and ibid., 125. 

^ Epist., 34-36, esp. 35: "Quidnam arbitrandum sit tantarum cladium, tot cottidie malo- 
rum nostro saeculo ingruentium causam fore, quot et quanta vix umquam alio saeculo acci- 
disse credi possit. Instant gravissimae guerrae, et undique circumstant proximo metus earum, 
fere sua radice peiores. Quae, etsi pestilentissimae sint et innumerabiles homines obruant, 
urbes[que] plurimas evertant, plerumque tamen eis et vallorum robore et viribus et multitu- 
dine pugilum obviatur. Huic autem atrocissimo malorum nullis viribus, nullo ingenio obsisti 
potest quo minus quisque, quem sua sors tetigerit, irremediabili morbo depereat. Si igitur 
haec a divina natura provenire dixeris, nostra scelera vindicante, tecum indubitate sentiam, 
quae saeculum hoc, non plumbeum, sed terreum, fictile, immo arenosum, et ad quodlibet 
nefas pronum, ulciscitur." For the diplomatic maneuvering and subsequent wars, see Ludo- 
vico Frati, "La Lega dei Bolognesi e dei Fiorentini contro Gio. Galeazzo Visconti (1389- 
90)," Archivio storico lombardo 16 (1889): 5-21; and Hans Baron, The Crisis of the Early 
Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an Age of Classicism and 
Tyranny (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1955; rev. ed., Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 
1966), 28-30. 

^ Adolescence 21 

as Seneca offered a welcome antithesis to the argumentative world of 
dialectic' Moved by the image of Santo poring over Senecan treatises, 
Vergerio rededicated himself to similar studies. They would give his life 
useful direction and keep his mind focused. ^° 

By repeatedly emphasizing his recourse to authors such as Seneca, 
Vergerio seemed engaged in a therapeutic quest to convince himself and 
others of his happiness. Yet his commitment to Stoic ideals proved half- 
hearted at best. He felt that fleeing the plague presented a more reason- 
able approach than continuing to reside in a city so infected that one ran 
serious risk of contracting the disease. The Stoic sage did not fear death; 
however, the Vergerian sage saw no reason to hasten its coming. More- 
over, Vergerio never seemed convinced of the wisdom of facing life's 
struggles alone. The young pedagogue battled loneliness by engaging in 
a lifelong quest for solace within a community of scholars. To Seneca on 
self-discipline Vergerio joined Cicero on friendship. There was surely an 
element of calculation in Vergerio's effort to create a circle of supportive 
friends. The scholars to whom he wrote usually had powerful and remu- 
nerative positions in society. They were potential patrons. Still, Vergerio 
also prized the encouragement he had received from the supportive 
words of Santo de' Pellegrini. Santo's praise spurred his protege's resolve 
to excel in his studies. ^^ 

Vergerio consistently sought solace in his program of studies. As he 
did, he began to reorient his educational priorities by moving toward 
the humanist end of learning's spectrum. Theoretically, he came to the 
conviction that logic had value as a means {via) to more fundamental 
educational goals. He defined the goals as facility in oratory and in a 
philosophy that focused upon moral as well as scientific concerns. When 
Vergerio sought to defend the value of his own university to a student 

' Epist, 12-13: "Auguror te, vir egregie, cum Seneca iamdudum tuo, insomnes vigilias 
agere et totum otii tui tempus secum non otiose conterere, iocundam equidem et praeclaram 
et unicuique expetibiVlem conversationem in qua nullus rancor, nulla potest controversia 
iurgiorum incidere, sed quietam semper atque pacificam, quae in honesto continue ac sancto 
colloquio perseveret." In general, see Hans Baron, "Franciscan Poverty and Civic Wealth 
in the Shaping of Trecento Humanistic Thought: The Role of Florence," In Search of Flor- 
entine Civic Humanism: Essays on the Transition from Medieval to Modem Thought (Prince- 
ton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988), 1:195-97; and Letizia A. Panizza, "Textual Interpretation 
in Italy, 1350-1450: Seneca's Letter I to LmcWius," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld In- 
stitutes 46 (1983): 55. 

'° Epist., 24, 41. 

" Epist, 27-30, 40, esp. 29: "Sed ad bonum finem a te haec dicta non dubito; ingens 
enim, ut dicunt, ad excitanda ingenia calcar est gloria." 


who had transferred to Siena, he emphasized that Bologna had a superi- 
or program because the professors concerned themselves with ethics as 
well as physics. ^^ Like many young scholars, Vergerio offered general 
judgments that were shaped by his own deepening convictions. Those 
convictions became the seeds of a revolutionary change in Western edu- 

Galvanized by the idealism that Cicero and Seneca had embodied, 
Vergerio sought to imitate their persuasive example. His letters especial- 
ly indicated a deepening appreciation for the culture of Cicero. From an 
initial preoccupation with questions of style, Vergerio eventually em- 
braced the deeper implications of Cicero's rhetorical culture, describing 
him as the "source of all eloquence"; Cicero had harnessed persuasive 
oratory to the compelling example of an upright life.^^ Vergerio appre- 
ciated that rhetoric in the Roman tradition valued ethos as an especially 
effective mode of persuading. He likewise developed an awareness that 
rhetorical culture did not exhaust human learning. Eloquence enhanced 
one's expertise in a variety of important disciplines. Yet, on sound lin- 
guistic grounds, Vergerio observed that eloquence had little utility for 
the "mute" sciences.^'^ In the course of his career, he favored those dis- 
ciplines germane to eloquence. 

Before leaving Bologna, Vergerio succeeded in translating his theoret- 
ical concerns into literary form. He wrote a comedy entitled Paulus in 
imitation of the work of the Roman dramatists Plautus and Terence. 
Vergerio developed a special affinity for Terence, who, after Cicero, was 
the author that he most frequently cited in his letters.^^ For a scholar 

'^ Epist., 30 ("Sed tamen non despero, quod, si huic studio intentum me dedero, satis 
abunde proficiam. Logicae quidem disciplinae, quam aliis trado, ita insisto ut earn mihi viam 
ad alias statuam et non finem, sed plerumque oratoriae, cuius eadem ratio est, plerumque 
etiam et multo studiosius philosophiae, non solum ei quae naturam rerum ostendit, sed ei 
quoque in qua omnis recta ratio vivendi consistit"); see also ibid., 36-37 and 39 (in describ- 
ing the University of Bologna, Vergerio observes: "adsunt continue qui et virtuosos et scien- 
tificos, quales ad eos spectat, actus excercent, legunt, disputant, et quaestiones, quae turn re- 
rum varietatem, turn vitae honestatem tangunt, sedula collatione pertractant"). The Univer- 
sity of Bologna had in fact begun to hire at minimal salaries lecturers on Aristotelian natural 
and moral philosophy; see Nancy G. Siraisi, Taddeo Alderotti and His Pupils: Two Genera- 
tions of Italian Medical Learning (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1981), 21-23, 72-95, 114- 

'^ Epist., 13 ("Italae eloquentiae ac honestatis universae culmen"), 29 ("totius eloquentiae 
fontem"), and 40. 

'* Epist., 43. 

'^ Leonardo Smith, Epist., Ixxxv n. 1. In 1412, Vergerio wrote to Ludovico Buzzacarini, 
asking Buzzacarini to return a codex of Terence that Vergerio had lent him; for the circum- 
stances, see Gianni Ballistreri, "Buzzacarini, Ludovico," DBI 15:645. 

Adolescence 23 

developing novel ideas about education, Terence was an apt model. The 
literary structure of early Roman comedy mimicked the conventions of 
the Greek genre. Plots involved young men who fell in love with 
women forbidden to them because of their aristocratic standing. Often 
the women were prostitutes. After the young man's father intervened to 
put an end to the scandalous liaison, the lovers generally outwitted him 
with the aid of clever slaves and were reunited by the play's end. Gener- 
ally, the resolution reconciled all members of the family. The entire 
drama unfolded within the confines of an aristocratic Roman household 
in the extended sense. The young male aristocrat, the household slaves, 
and the courtesan all were summoned to account for their intrigues be- 
fore the absolute tribunal of the paterfamilias. 

Comic situations in the earlier plays of Plautus underlined the au- 
thoritarian relationship of a father to his son. Paternal severity should 
be mirrored in filial reverence (pietas). Thus, the affective relationship be- 
tween father and son grew more distant as the son reached adolescence. 
Plautus poked fun at the formality of such a rapport by presenting farci- 
cal father figures who demeaned themselves by competing with their 
sons for the love of a prostitute. Unless seen as farce, such profligate be- 
havior on the part of the father might erode the social foundations of 
Roman political life. The aristocratic republic could ill afford to see its 
leading citizens surrender to uncontrollable passions. In such circum- 
stances, the very social fabric would be rent. Plautine comedies ultimate- 
ly supported the traditional values of the aristocracy. 

Terence had given this traditional structure a revolutionary twist.^^ 
Working from Greek models as Plautus had, Terence offered Roman so- 
ciety a more modern approach to values. To the rigid severity of the tra- 
dition, Terence counterposed a model of flexibility. Rome had evolved 
from an agricultural to an urban society, and tolerance on the part of 
the father figure reflected the changing values of the society.^'' The ten- 
sion between the values of rural and urban life became fixtures of Ro- 

'* See Luciano Perelli, // teatro rivoluzionario di Terenzio, Biblioteca di cultura 1 12 (Flor- 
ence: La Nuova Italia, 1973); Elaine Fantham, " Hautontimorumenos znd Adelphoe: A Study 
of Fatherhood in Terence and Menznder," Latomus 30 (1971): 970-90; Maurizio Bettini,/1«- 
tropologia e cultura romana: Parentela, tempo, immagim dell'anima (Rome: La Nuova Italia 
Scientifica, 1986), 18-49; and Grendler, Schooling, 250-52. Pietro da Moglio conducted signif- 
icant investigations on the text of Terence at Bologna prior to 1381; see Giuseppe Billano- 
vich, "L'insegnamento della grammatica e della retorica nelle universita iuliane tra Petrarca 
e Guarino," in The Universities in the Late Middle Ages, 365-80. 

'^ See the incisive comments of Bettini, Antropologia e cultura romana, ll-ld, 41-43. 


man cultural imagery. One hundred years later, when Cicero argued be- 
fore Roman juries, he exploited paradigms from both contexts. In 
speeches like the Pro Roscio Amerino, Cicero highlighted the noble par- 
simony of agricultural society to cast avaricious urban opponents in the 
worst light. However, in the Pro Caelio, Cicero adopted perspectives 
more akin to those of Terence. In that instance, the conservative Roman 
maintained that young men needed to be handled with tolerance, espe- 
cially as they discovered their sexual powers in the years immediately 
following puberty. ^^ 

When Pierpaolo Vergerio turned his interests toward humanist learn- 
ing, he wrote the first comedy of the Italian Renaissance modeled upon 
the Roman tradition, with particular appreciation for Terence. In effect, 
Vergerio succeeded more thoroughly in grasping the cultural challenge 
raised by Terence than he did in grasping Terence's poetic meter.^' 
Vergerio found in Terence a sympathetic voice for his own developing 
convictions and discovered that their ideals overlapped on key issues. 
Like Terence, Vergerio made an adolescent male struggling with his sex- 
uality the protagonist of his drama. Terence had likened the adolescent's 
erotic energy to wine. Vergerio's Paulus, at his worst, allows libidinous 
desire to overcome more prudent reflection. He squanders his wealth in 
spending binges, often to pay for courtesans. As conceptualized within 
the broad stream of Western humanism, therefore, the idea of freedom 
(libertas) had a dialectical quality. Negatively, humanists used the word 
to refer to absolute license in a hedonistic sense. Authentic human free- 
dom, on the other hand, denoted the responsible exercise of choice 
guided by mature self-control. ^° Both Terence and Vergerio raised the 
crucial question of how to educate an adolescent in the proper exercise 
of that power of choice. 

Roman comedy typically portrayed the aristocratic adolescent as 
naive and self-indulgent. Insulated by his social standing and susceptible 
to cajoling, he could easily be entrapped by those more clever and 

'* There are excellent analyses of Cicero's speeches in Ann C. Vasaly, "The Masks of 
Rhetoric: Cicero's Pro Roscio Amerino," Rhetorica 3 (1985): 1-20; and Vasaly, Representa- 
tions: Images of the World in Ciceronian Rhetoric (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford: Univ. 
of California Press, 1993), 156-90. 

" See Karl Milliner, "Vergerios Paulus, eine Studentenkomodie," Wiener Studien 22 
(1900): 234-35; Remigio Sabbadini, "II Paulus di P. P. Vergerio," Giomale storico della lette- 
ratura italiana 38 (1901): 464-65; and Sergio Cella, "La figura e I'opera di Pier Paolo Ver- 
gerio il Vecchio," Pagine istriane 3-4 (1986): 56-57. 

2° Terence, And. 466-67; Eun. 430; Hec. 138-39; and Ad. 149-53, 470-71. 

Adolescence 25 

worldly-wise.^^ Such adolescents obviously had need of education and, 
in Roman culture, the father played a central role in that education. In 
starkest terms, the Roman father was taught to handle his son as though 
he were breaking a wild horse. He must rein in youthful passion by ex- 
ercising his disciplinary role with unbending severity. However, Terence 
challenged such conduct by fathers as outmoded and self-defeating. To 
meet his father's rigid standards, a son need only conceal his behavior, 
not change it. Terence suggested that fathers were guilty of short mem- 
ories in applying such severe standards to their sons. They forgot their 
own youthful desires and measured youthful conduct against the sub- 
dued passion of old age. 

In contrast, Terence offered the character of a more sophisticated 
father who tolerantly allowed his son to learn the responsible exercise 
of free choice. The father should not approve every desire and concomi- 
tant action on the part of the son; in that case, he would be like the pa- 
thetic figure of the plays of Plautus. Rather, the father should enlighten 
his son on the need to choose responsibly: a competent father corrected 
his son when he acted immorally and encouraged him when he acted 
properly. The father must consider the son's stage in human develop- 
ment as well the content of his action. Sons could acquire a sense of the 
proper use of free choice by studying disciplines (letters, music, physical 
exercise) which inculcated a sense of propriety appropriate to the aristo- 
crat's leading place in political society .^^ To the traditional virtues of 
the rural past, Terence added an urbane refinement of thought and 

In the Paulus, Vergerio applied such insights on the moral education 
of an adolescent to the different social conditions of late fourteenth-cen- 
tury Italy. From its origins, the university system of learning had 
created novel circumstances which forced adolescent students to leave 
home. In Vergerio's comedy, therefore, the father figure is never on 
stage; his appearance is used once as a veiled threat which will compel 
Paulus to reform his profligate ways. Throughout his four years at the 
University of Bologna, Paulus has been given sufficient monies by his 
father so that he might comfortably ignore his studies in favor of much 
carousing. One of his household slaves, Herotes, abets his master's he- 
donistic ways while stealing from him. The plot of the play revolves 

^' Ter., And. 910-12; and Phor. 270-77. 

^ Tcr., And. 55-60; Heaut. 213-22; Eun. 476-78; znd Ad 51-58, 101-10, 989-95. 

26 CHAPTER 2 _______^_^_ 

around a dream, which Paulus describes in the opening scene. In that 
dream, he had seen whole new avenues for his talents: he might one day 
earn the crown of poet laureate, marry a beautiful young woman, and 
use his political acumen to become despot of his city-state. Upon awak- 
ening, Paulus resolves to change his life for the better. He proposes to 
excel in the studies that he had assiduously ignored till that moment be- 
cause they offer the best means to the noble goals, which had finally 
emerged from his subconscious. For Paulus, interior motivation, charac- 
teristically tinged with vanity, plays a more important role than the ex- 
ternal strictures of his father.^^ However, the rest of the play reveals 
the successful efforts of Herotes to deflect his young master from his 
proposed transformation. 

In a speech to Paulus filled with sophistic arguments, Herotes imme- 
diately begins to put his plan in motion. That such fallacious reasoning 
would convince Paulus proves how remiss he had been till then in his 
studies. Herotes weakens Paulus's resolve by first mentioning the revel- 
ry of the Christmas season already upon them. Twisting the principle of 
everything in just measure, the slave then assures his master that his 
studies would never make him richer, given the size of his vast inheri- 
tance. Finally, he flatters the young man by arguing for the sufficiency 
of his native ability. Schooling rarely made persons as talented as himself 
any better. The speech has every hope of success, given the vain charac- 
ter of Paulus. Moreover, it is a clever piece of irony on Vergerio's part. 
In effect, Herotes inverts the cardinal principles of Vergerio's nascent 
humanist philosophy of education. Humanist studies were intended to 
help form the character of the student, not to make him wealthier. Hu- 
manist schooling should always make persons of talent even better. 

To eradicate any residual resolve on the part of Paulus, Herotes then 
promises to find him a virgin who would forego any fee for the honor 
of sleeping with his "destitute master." Paulus is immediately attracted 
to the scheme because he is so low on funds. Through a subtle form of 
extortion, Herotes forces a courtesan to impersonate the virgin of his 
master's fantasy. However, he first rewards himself for finding the wom- 

^ PPV, Paulus, Perosa, ed., 322, lines 27-39: "Deus immortalis ac superi omnes! Quas 
mihi delicias tulit hie somnus, quos honores, quas inextimabiles ac veras voluptates! Videbar 
ipse mihi coronatus iam emerita lauro in patriam ivisse me, ac protinus sponsam virginem 
generosam mihi, quae decore superaret solem. Quis autem conventus ad me optimatium, 
quis omnium concursus! Ego ipse videbar consilia cunctis dare, iudicia regere, interpretari 
leges veteres, leges constitui auctoritate mea novas. Quid multa? Si quid exorbuissem 
amplius, rex eram!" 

Adolescence 27 

an; he "tastes the master's enticing repast" in order to insure that it is 
not poisoned. Herotes later passes a harrowing moment at his master's 
bedroom door when it seems that the courtesan had forgotten her role. 
However, she remembers the script at the crucial moment and recites 
her part convincingly. 

The world of Vergerio's Paulus is one of swindling and counter swin- 
dling: the slave swindles his master and the courtesan, the courtesan 
swindles the master. The play's prologue suggests that the author under- 
took its composition in order to reform morals. One lesson consistent 
with the Roman tradition lies in the impressionable character of the 
adolescent. Even the most noble resolve can be corrupted by an unscru- 
pulous counselor.^^ A knave such as Herotes in this instance has an 
easier task than he might have had under other circumstances. As the 
procuress of the courtesan observes, adolescent males tend to permit 
themselves virtually anything.^^ The libidinous tendencies of Paulus 
know no restraint from a severe father, as in Roman days. He had left 
home at a young age to pursue his studies in one of Europe's most dis- 
tinguished universities. 

In some ways, then, the play is an indictment of the university as the 
key institution of the educational establishment. The studies prof erred 
by the institution offer no disciplinary alternative in the absence of the 
paterfamilias. Herotes epitomizes intelligence without moral restraint or 
sensitivity. He candidly expresses his disdain for letters because they are 
not easily conjoined with the sort of practical wisdom that has brought 
him success. Herotes characterizes himself as so learned that he can 
never utter the truth. The more he swears by the gods, the less he 
should be trusted. His primary art is pleasing his master.^^ The divorce 

^^ Paulus, 333, lines 305-9: "Sed verum est quod dicunt, eos, qui bono ingenio praediti 
sunt, ut valent cum sese rectis applicant, eosdem malo suasore corruptos deterrimos fieri. 
Sed omnia semper in peius abeunt." 

" Paulus, 347, lines 645-49: "Quid, si nunc coegerit comites et conventum faciat, ut so- 
lent? Spectare oportet omnia: adolescentes omnes sunt, quibus omnia licent, multaque trans- 
mittunt impunita; tum et supprimere res nesciunt." 

^* Paulus, 325, lines 115-16: "Ego, si detur optio mihi, nolim plenus esse litterarum: ita 
raro summae litterae cum summa prudentia coeunt"; and ibid., 354, lines 817-25: "alium, 
qui nihil penitus audire vellet veri, cui cum facerem satis, quamquam id reor mihi natura 
datum, tam doctus evasi, ut nihil possim verum dicere. Si verum a me quicquam voles, con- 
tra semper ac dixeram habeto, quoque magis deos adiuro, eo minus iubeo credas: nobis 
enim, qui aliena vivimus mercede, omnes comparandae sunt artes, quo magis dominis pla- 
ceamus." Herotes brags of his success in swindling former masters out of lai^e sums of 
money: he thus forces some to become mercenaries, others expatriates, and still others 


of learning and moral living had dire consequences. Terence had found 
himself embroiled in controversy with the theatrical establishment of his 
day. Vergerio launched a pointed critique of the universities for an ex- 
cessive emphasis on dialectic and natural philosophy and for inadequate 
attention to moral training. Vergerio challenged educators who dealt 
with impressionable young minds to show greater flexibility and greater 
attention to formation of character. 

Previous critics of the play have seen a biographical basis in Verge- 
rio's characterization of Paulus. With the character's name, one can 
defend the interpretation. And, in at least one letter from this period, 
Vergerio admitted that he had a difficult time concentrating on his stud- 
ies.^^ However, there are stronger reasons that militate against such an 
interpretation. In Paulus, laziness and profligacy are the by-products of 
wealth. On those rare occasions when Paulus actually attended lectures, 
he could never find his place in the books, which he continually pawned 
to finance his carousing. Vergerio claimed poverty as his constant com- 
panion during those years. Moreover, Vergerio consistently embraced 
learning as a form of discipline; to labor at studies, even without 
significant progress, was better than to waste one's life in pursuit of 
pleasure. Vergerio resented the leisure permitted to wealthier students at 
the university. The play offered words of praise for students who de- 
voted themselves to study and made such progress in a single year that 
they could dispute effectively against all opponents.^^ 

The medium of the Paulus is a message. By imitating Terence, Verge- 
rio could emphasize the importance of learning that helped moral devel- 
opment. That was particularly important in the case of an adolescent, 
who confronted the urges of his libido without the guidance, be it severe 
or tolerant, of his father. The motivation of the youth himself, the care- 
ful guidance of his friends and advisors, and the directions of his educa- 
tional institution had to compensate for the missing guidance of a pater- 
familias. In a key confrontation, replete with irony, the freed slave 
Stichus upbraids his master Paulus, who had allowed himself to become 

^ Sabbadini, "II Paulus,'' 464; and Epist., 29: "Dum enim considero quot dies otiosus et 
inutilis egi, quot noctes marcido sopore consumpsi, non modo haec de me fingere non 
audeo, sed omnino alicuius umquam pretii futurum me esse despero." 

28 ppv, Paulus, 323, lines 58-61: "Dinus, isque admodum tener, quam elegans biennio 
hoc evasit; alter ille annum solum audivit litteras iamque cum omnibus sedulo disputat." See 
also the praise of the adolescent Titus, ibid., 335, who studied diligently, regularly attended 
church, ate meagerly due to his poverty, and consistently tried to convince Paulus to amend 
his ways. 

Adolescence 29 

enslaved to his passions.^' The play confirms what Vergerio's letters 
had also indicated: during his years as a professor and student at Bolo- 
gna, Vergerio increasingly embraced the moral concerns of the humanist 
program of education. 

In those years at the University of Bologna, Vergerio found rare mo- 
ments of tranquility when he perused the writings of Cicero and Seneca, 
welcoming them as a source of inspiration and as a sedative for his 
spirit. Vergerio harbored vivid memories of violence and social distur- 
bance from his youngest days in exile. When he entered the university, 
he found to his dismay a world characterized by violent verbal debate. 
He first taught within the Scholastic system, training pupils in dialectic. 
Experiences on both sides of the teacher's podium upset his inner calm. 
In contrast, Vergerio found refuge in the Stoicism of Roman rhetori- 
cians. Vergerio's commitment to humanism represented a reaction to his 
childhood experience of political violence and his educational experience 
of intellectual conflict. He felt tranquil in the company of orators, who 
combined eloquence {eloquentia) with integrity (honestas). His education- 
al priorities shifted accordingly: logic should no longer comprise the 
basis for further education. It should be subordinated to rhetoric, moral 
philosophy, and natural science. Those convictions proved to be revolu- 

" Paulus, 332-33, lines 279-96, esp. lines 279-85: "[Paulus] Ergo eum patiar, qui vilis- 
simus siet servus, nunc indignus libertate, ita in me agat? [Stichus] At non ita de me pater 
iudicavit tuus, quando libertatem dedit. Videbimus quid de te libero iudicet, de quo quidem 
nihil dici potest nisi scelera omnia." 


Classicizing Oratory 

During his stay in Bologna, Pierpaolo Vergerio wrote a letter to 
Francesco Novello da Carrara, the once and future despot of the 
city of Padua. Driven from Padua by the troops of Giangaleazzo Viscon- 
ti in 1388, Francesco Novello had approached various Visconti enemies 
for support in a campaign to win back his lordship {signoria). Those 
travels had taken him to Florence in April of 1389 and to Bologna a few 
months later. There, Pierpaolo Vergerio saw the deposed ruler and used 
that visual contact as an excuse to write to him. In a polished piece of 
political flattery, Vergerio contrasted the general character of princes of 
his age to the peculiar qualities of Francesco. Most princes adopted a 
lifestyle that compromised their high standing and the welfare of their 
subjects. They lived as slaves to the pursuit of pleasure and financial 
gain. Francesco Novello, on the contrary, had assured his good reputa- 
tion and the well-being of his subjects by supporting the study of the 
liberal arts. Despite disclaimers to the contrary, Vergerio intended that 
his letter pave the way for his move to Padua late in 1390, where he 
hoped to attain Carrara patronage. Except for a brief stay in Florence 
and summers in Capodistria, Vergerio settled in Padua until 1397.^ 

Vergerio reached the city shortly after Francesco Novello had won 
back his position of dominance. On 21 June 1390, the citadel of the city, 
garrisoned by troops loyal to Giangaleazzo Visconti, fell to the Carrara 
army. It took Francesco Novello another month to crush residual resis- 

' Epist, 31-32. Nicoletto d'Alessio, originally from Capodistria, was chancellor for the 
Carrara at that time and held the office until his death in 1393; see Paolo Sambin, "Alessio, 
Nicoletto d'," DBI 2:247-48. 


tance; on September 8, Paduan officials reconf erred the lordship of the 
city in a solemn public ceremony. Heartened by that initial success, the 
anti-Visconti coalition, which then consisted principally of Francesco 
Novello and his allies in Florence and Bologna, planned to weaken 
Giangaleazzo further by reestablishing Delia Scala rule in Verona and by 
attacking Francesco Gonzaga, Mantuan supporter of Visconti aggression. 
The coalition's armies launched a first attack in the winter of 1390-1391, 
and by the summertime they had marched deep into Milanese territory, 
threatening Bergamo and Brescia.^ 

Vergerio followed these events closely and sent letters to his friend 
Giovanni da Bologna analyzing the conflict. He used the letters to en- 
rich his dossier as a political strategist. The first letter was written in 
January 1391, before the outbreak of hostilities. Vergerio confessed that 
he had difficulty in sorting out truth from false rumor. He judged the 
situation to be explosive: Visconti politics had polarized the Italian 
world. Openly or clandestinely, all the Italian states had chosen sides. 
Vergerio depicted the struggle in the starkest of moral terms. Giangale- 
azzo Visconti represented the cause of evil tyranny; the forces allied 
against him upheld the cause of liberty.^ While Giangaleazzo sought to 
delay the outbreak of hostilities, his opponents, because they had limited 
financial resources, wished to provoke a full-scale battle. The campaign 
unwound according to that pattern: the coalition as the aggressor and 
Giangaleazzo as the cautious delayer, hoping to exhaust his opponents' 
resources in a drawn-out struggle. 

In subsequent letters, Vergerio followed the failure of the coalition's 
winter campaign, the dramatic success of the coalition early in the sum- 
mer, and the disappointing retreat of the coalition's troops to Padua at 
summer's end. Behind the military events, Vergerio attempted to read 
deeper political lessons. After the winter campaign had failed, he excori- 
ated the leadership for immediately seeking scapegoats. Vergerio felt that 
politicians resorted to conspiracy theories to obfuscate the collective fail- 
ure of their own policies.^ Moreover, Vergerio found Giangaleazzo 's 

^ M. Chiara Ganguzza Billanovich, "Carrara, Francesco da, il Novello," DBI 20:656-62. 

^ Epist., 46-53, 58; and David Robey, "P. P. Vergerio the Elder: Republicanism and 
Civic Values in the Work of an Early Italian Humanist," Past and Present, no. 58 (February 
1973): 9-11. 

* Epist, 68: "Quidam in eo congressu de suscepta fide, falso, ut ego existimo, infames ha- 
biti sunt. Verum sic fieri in magnis rebus solet, ut, cum exitus non plene respondeat spei, et 
temere quid aut per ignaviam actum sit, crimen errorque multitudinis transferatur in 
paucos." Leonardo Smith, ibid., 68 n. 2, cites evidence from the Corpus Chronicorum Bono- 

Classicizing Oratory 33 

strategy of avoiding pitched battle rather puzzling. Judging the Visconti 
ruler intent on subjugating all of Italy, Vergerio felt that he had no hope 
of achieving his goal without defeating the coalition in full-scale battle.^ 

Much of Vergerio's final analysis turned upon his conviction that 
both sides in the Italian struggle pursued myopic policies which ulti- 
mately threatened their very existence. Incessant local rivalries ended up 
pitting one alliance of Italian city-states against another. Such wars un- 
derstandably attracted the attention of foreign powers, given the eco- 
nomic wealth of the peninsula. If civil war itself did not portend suicide 
for the states of Italy, then the tendency to drag useless foreign allies in- 
to the conflict did. "This is our long-standing custom: Italians cannot 
wage war between themselves without involving the rest of the world in 
our insane labors."^ After the war, rumors had begun to circulate that 
King Charles VI of France (1380-1422) and Emperor Wenceslaus of Ger- 
many (1378-1410) planned to invade Italy. Vergerio may have wished to 
highlight the stupidity of Italian bickering by suggesting that even those 
two inept rulers presented a serious threat. 

Vergerio's letter to Francesco Novell© and his war correspondence 
failed to win the patronage of the Carrara family. In letters through 
1394 Vergerio still complained regularly of financial difficulties. To help 
meet his expenses, he continued to teach logic while pursuing further de- 
grees at the University of Padua. He also received some assistance from 
Francesco Zabarella, who had come to teach canon law at the university 
shortly after the restoration of Carrara rule. He depended especially 
upon the financial help of his hometown friend, Santo de' Pellegrini. 
Without that support, Vergerio candidly admitted that his life would 
have been very different. Compelled to live in Capodistria on the 

niensium that Astorre Manfredi da Faenza {signore from 1377-1404, d. 1405) had plotted to 
kill John Hawkwood and Francesco Novello. 

^ Epist, 71-78, where Vergerio's analysis seems dictated, in part, by the need to demon- 
strate that the League had won the campaign. 

^ Epist., 79: "Quid enim opus erat ad haec intestina et, ut ita dicam, civilia Bella exteras 
gentes advocare? Abunde furoris et virium est ut in semet ruat Italia. Sed vetus hie mos est. 
Nequit in se bellum agere nisi et reliquum orbem insanis laboribus suis admisceat." To ex- 
emplify his argument fibid., 80), Vergerio pointed to the support that Count Jean HI 
d'Armagnac promised to the League's forces, so that they might trap Giangaleazzo's army 
in a fatal vise. Instead, the count delayed his arrival far beyond the planned date, and his 
army retreated quickly into France after its defeat at Alessandria on 25 July 1391 and his 
death the following day. Because Giangaleazzo did not have to fight a war on two fronts, 
he could outlast the League and force the retreat of its army. Cf. Vergerio's evaluation of 
John Hawkwood, ibid., 68-69; and Quentin Skinner, The Renaissance, vol. 1 of The Founda- 
tions of Modem Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978), 74-77. 


meager resources that remained to his family after the War of Chioggia, 
Vergerio would have dissipated his energies with no access to liberal 

Vergerio thus gambled that he might improve his attractiveness to a 
princely patron by lengthening his curriculum of studies and assuring 
the recommendations of prestigious intellectuals. Official documents 
from Padua indicate that, by 13 October 1394, Vergerio had achieved 
the degree of doctor of the arts and medicine and had proceeded to the 
study of civil law/ He may also have studied rhetoric with Giovanni 
Conversini da Ravenna because he had the opportunity to attend Gio- 
vanni's university lectures or to arrange for private tutoring. From 1380 
to 1383, Conversini had served Francesco da Carrara il Vecchio as one 
of the regime's secretaries. He returned to Padua in the spring of 1393 
to accept a public lectureship in grammar and rhetoric at the university. 
At the end of that year, after the death of Nicoletto d'Alessio, Giovanni 
assumed the office of chancellor.^ While Vergerio continued to nurture 

^ The evidence that Vergerio continued to lecture on logic at the University of Padua 
is discussed by Smith, Epist., 484n. For the support of Santo de' Pellegrini, see ibid., 148-50. 
Vergerio lived with Francesco Zabarella for a time, probably when he first moved to Padua, 
and Zabarella helped him obtain books and take examinations. See ibid., 130, and Vergerio's 
remark in his tribute to Zabarella in 1417 (ibid., 365): "quamobrem interdum quidem ei do- 
mesticus fui, semper autem familiaris." See further Gasparo Zonta, Francesco Zabarella 
(1360-1417) (Padua, 1915), 18-20; and Nicholas Mann, "Arnold Geilhoven: An Early 
Disciple of Petrarch in the Low Countries," /o«'^'*^ of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 
32 (1969): 7A-7(}. Leonardo Smith offers evidence that Vergerio lived "in contrata Ruthe- 
nae" on 18 October 1394. At that time, Zabarella had his residence "in contrata Sanctae 
Malgaritae," where he had moved in 1391. See Smith, Epist., 107 n. 1; and Claudio Bellinati, 
"La casa canonicale di Francesco Petrarca a Padova: Ubicazione e vicende," in Contributi 
alia storia della chiesa padovana nell'eta medioevale 1, Fonti e ricerche 1 1 (Padua: Istituto per 
la Storia Ecclesiastica Padovana, 1979), 111-12. 

* Leonardo Smith, "Note" cronologiche vergeriane, III-V," Archivio veneto, ser. 5, 4 
(1928): 92-96; and Smith, Epist., xvi. 

' See Remigio Sabbadini, Giovanni da Ravenna insigne figura d'umanista (1343-1408), 
Studi umanistici 1 (Como, 1924), 74-78, 99-104; Alfredo Galletti, L'eloquenza (dalle origini 
al XVI secolo), Storia del generi letterari italiani (Milan, 1904-38), 553-57; Luciano Gargan, 
"Giovanni Conversini e la cultura letteraria a Treviso nella seconda meta del Trecento," 
IMU S (1965): 132-34; R. G. G. Mercer, TTje Teaching of Gasparino Barzizza, with Special Ref- 
erence to His Place in Paduan Humanism, Texts and Dissertations Series 10 (London: Modem 
Humanities Research Association, 1979), 16-17; Benjamin G. Kohl, "Introduction," in 
Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna, Dragmalogia de eligibili vitae genere, H. Lanneau Eaker, 
ed. and trans., Bucknell Renaissance texts in translation, in conjunction with The Renais- 
sance Society of America: Renaissance Texts Series 7 (Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell Univ. 
Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 1980), 13-30; and John M. McManamon, 
"Innovation in Early Humanist Rhetoric: The Oratory of Pier Paolo Vergerio the Elder," 
Rinascimento, n.s., 22 (1982): 4-5. Though Leonardo Smith has proposed that Vergerio 
studied under Giovanni in private, he could also have attended the university lectures. Stu- 
dents at Padua had studied the arts and medicine simultaneously for over fifty years. See 

classicizing, Oratory 35 

contacts with a group of doctors and scientists, he now emphasized his 
humanist studies {studia litterarum, studia eloquentiae aut scribendi, exer- 
citium litterarum) when he described his hfe in Padua.^° They were to 
be the bridge to political service. 

Vergerio depicted himself as a dedicated student in those Paduan 
years. He claimed that he often attended two or three lectures on a 
single day. Rising before dawn, he studied by candlelight when neces- 
sary. He claimed that he rarely left his house except to attend lectures at 
the university. When he needed to take a break, he preferred a short 
walk within the confines of his own garden. Vergerio allowed only his 
friendship with Francesco Zabarella to break that rigorous schedule. 
When Vergerio knew that Zabarella had the following day free from lec- 
turing, he would stop by Zabarella's house in the evening to play board 
games or amuse himself in writing exercises. Even when the two friends 
retreated to the Euganean hills to hunt and fish, they brought along 
copies of Terence, Virgil, and Cicero. Discussions of Cicero kept them 
up well into the night. ^^ 

During the years in Padua, Vergerio's friendships acquired a tint of 
political calculation. Through his personal letters, Vergerio contacted 
prominent figures from the various city-states that comprised the 

Smith, EpisL, 109 n. 2; Nancy G. Siraisi, Arts and Sciences at Padua: The Studium of Padua 
before 1350, Studies and Texts 25 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973), 
55-58; and Lucia Rossetti, "Lo Studio di Padova nel Quattrocento: Nota informativa," in 
Antonino Poppi, ed., Scienza efilosofia all'Universita di Padova nel Quattrocento, Contributi 
alia storia dell'Universita di Padova 15 (Padua: Centro per la storia dell'Universita, and 
Trieste: LINT, 1983), 11-12. Ronald G. Witt, in "Still the Matter of the Two Giovannis: 
A Note on Malpaghini and Conversino," forthcoming in Rinascimento, n.s., 35 (1995), ar- 
g;ues that Vergerio did not study formally with Giovanni Conversini. I follow here the re- 
vised chronology for Conversini's Paduan sojourns as defined by Luciano Gargan, "Per la 
biblioteca di Giovanni Conversini," in R. Avesani, M. Ferrari, T. Foffano, G. Frasso, and 
A. Sottili, eds.. Vestigia: Studi in onore di Giuseppe Billanovich, Raccolta di studi e testi 162- 
63 (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1984), 1:378-80. 

'° See Epist., 98, 99, and 107. 

" Epist., 107, 153-54. Recently, scholars have identified codices of the Tragedies of Sen- 
eca with autograph notes by Zabarella (Venice, Bibl. Nazionale Marciana, cod. Marc. lat. 
Xn.26 [3906]) and Vergerio (Oxford, Bodleian, cod. Auct. F.I. 14 and a copy in Trent, 
Museo and Bibl. Nazionale, cod. W.43), all of which date from the late fourteenth century. 
See Paul Oskar Kristeller, Iter 2:240b-41a, 6:232a-b; and Klara Csapodi-Gardonyi, Die Bibli- 
othek des Johannes Vitez, Studia Humanitatis: Veroffentlichungen der Arbeitsgruppe fiir 
Renaissanceforschung 6 (Budapest: Akademia Kiado, 1984), 23-24, 134-35 (#96). Ezio Fran- 
ceschini, in his "Glosse e commenti medievali a Seneca tragico," Studi e note di/ilologia la- 
tina medievale, Pubblicazioni della Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (S. Quarta): Scienze 
filologiche 30 (Milan, 1938), 103-4, described Vergerio's notes as "redatte in un latino assai 


anti-Visconti front. His correspondents included Pellegrino Zambeccari, 
chancellor of the Bolognese regime, Zaccaria Trevisan, a powerful young 
member of the Venetian oligarchy, Michele da Rabatta, virtual prime min- 
ister of the Carrara despotism in Padua and administrative vicar for the 
patriarchate of Aquileia from 1394 to 1395, and Coluccio Salutati, humanist 
chancellor of the Florentine Republic.^^ Of them all, Vergerio saw Salutati 
as the most important, and he cultivated that relationship most actively. In 
fact, Vergerio used a strategy first employed by Salutati himself. 

To become prominent in the humanist movement, Salutati had cor- 
responded with Petrarch, the movement's recognized leader, in the years 
immediately before Petrarch's death in 1374. Exploiting the genre of the 
personal letter that Petrarch himself had rediscovered, Salutati expressed 
intense admiration for the aged scholar. Yet Salutati did not conceal his 
insecurity about their late-blooming relationship. In fact, Petrarch wrote 
only one letter in response to those he had received from the rather ob- 
scure notary. However, Salutati had brought Petrarch within his collect- 
ed letters, and he furthered the impression of intimate friendship by 
writing two letters to commemorate Petrarch after his death. With ful- 
some praise, Salutati characterized Petrarch as superior to Virgil in his 
poetry and to Cicero in his prose. ^^ 

Vergerio likewise attached himself early in his career to Salutati. His 
letters to the Florentine chancellor in 1391 sought Salutati's imprimatur 
for his humanist orthodoxy. Having made great progress through con- 
tact with Salutati in Florence, Vergerio now claimed that he had lost 
momentum because he could no longer participate directly in the discus- 
sions that Salutati sponsored at the convent of the Augustinian friars. 
Their letters supplied the best bond in lieu of direct contact. Vergerio 
looked to Salutati for guidance in the way of moral living, an area of 
education that had fallen within the competence of ancient "orators and 
philosophers."^^ That remark indicates an important development in 
Vergerio's own approach to humanism during his years of study in 

'^ Epist, 53-66, 97-101. For Vergerio's relationship to Salutati, see also Marcello 
Aurigemma, StuJi sulla cultura letteraria fro, Tre e Quattrocento (Filippo Villani, Vergerio, 
Bruni) (Rome: Bulzoni, 1976), 61-66. 

" Benjamin G. Kohl, "Mourners of Petrarch," in Aldo Scaglione, ed., Francis Petrarch, 
Six Centuries Later: A Symposium, North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and 
Literatures: Symposia 3 (Chapel Hill, N.C., and Chicago, 1975), 345, 347-48. Giovanni Boc- 
caccio had once described Petrarch as the equal of Virgil in poetry and Cicero in prose. 

" Epist., 65-66. 

Classicizing Oratory 37 

The art of public speaking increasingly became Vergerio's preferred 
medium of expression. Whether through studies with Giovanni Conver- 
sini or through his own scrutiny of Cicero, Vergerio's reliance on his 
abilities as an orator multiplied. His rhetorical works help us to recon- 
struct the convictions he reached during those crucial Paduan years. 
What Vergerio praised in the orations of others represented the tech- 
niques of effective oratory that he had determined to be imperative. In 
many ways, Vergerio simply recapitulated the standard system of rhet- 
oric offered in "Ciceronian" handbooks like the De inventione and the 
Rhetorica ad HerenniumP The most promising students of oratory 
came equipped for their task with such attributes as intelligence and a 
voice that projected well outdoors. Successful speakers focused on con- 
tent {inventio) as well as style {omatio). Vergerio appreciated the persua- 
sional power of rational argumentation {logos), ethical conviction {ethos), 
and emotional appeals (pathos), and he sought to harness those modes of 
persuasion to stylistic virtues of clarity and decorum. Stylistic figures 
should be accommodated to the subject matter, lest the style detract 
from the seriousness (gravitas) of the issues at hand. 

In addition, Vergerio gained a sense of the ways in which those clas- 
sical principles had to be adapted to the modern political setting. Here 
Giovanni Conversini almost certainly shared with Vergerio the fruits of 
his knowledge as a political insider. For example, if Vergerio succeeded 
in his goal of obtaining the patronage of an Italian prince, he would find 
himself immersed in the world of oligarchic politics. Vergerio himself 
stated his disdain for contemporary orators, who sometimes delivered 
speeches in the vernacular so that the entire audience might understand 
the contents. He preferred a Latin oration as more attuned to the clas- 
sical tradition and the peculiar skills of humanists. By restricting the 
audience, moreover, the humanist would foster oratory more appropri- 
ate to the oligarchic politics of his day.^^ In order to sensitize himself 
to the challenges of working for such a regime, Vergerio seems to have 
exploited the classical exercise of declamation. That exercise — in which 

'^ I am here applying an approach first used by Michael Baxandall with regard to 
painting; see his Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social 
History of Pictorial Style (2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 109-53. 
For the influence of the rhetorical treatises of Cicero, see John O. Ward, "From Antiquity 
to the Renaissance: Glosses and Commentaries on Cicero's Rhetorica" in James J. Murphy, 
ed.. Medieval Eloquence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Medieval Rhetoric (Berkeley, Los 
Angeles, and London: Univ. of California Press, 1978), 25-67. 

'' PPV, De dignissimo funebri apparatu, RIS 16:193A-B, 194A-B. 


a student imagined himself in a famous situation which required that he 
dehver an oration — fostered a distinct sense of historical conscious- 
ness.^'^ It may well be that the circle of humanists in Padua also com- 
posed orations for important events connected to the activity of the Car- 
rara regime. 

Having whet Vergerio's appetite for a role at court, Giovanni Con- 
versini likewise shared with him the potential dangers one might en- 
counter there. New courtiers often aroused the envy of those whom 
they had outclassed. Throughout his years as a servant to the Carrara, 
Conversini found it difficult to hide his contempt for many of his asso- 
ciates. He occupied a delicate position because Francesco Novello 
showed him special favor. More than once, Giovanni portrayed France- 
sco Novello as an ignorant prince surrounded by willing sycophants. 
Conversini saw himself as the brains behind Carrara muscle. The prince 
regularly invited Giovanni to share his meals in order that the chancel- 
lor might answer his questions. He often had to explain to Francesco 
the meaning of the texts read during the Mass. Giovanni candidly ad- 
mitted that he assumed an obsequious posture toward his patrons. "If I 

'^ Renata Fabbri, "Un esempio della tecnica compositiva del Polenton: La Vita Senecae 
{Script. III. Lat. Ling. lib. XVII}," Res Publica Litterarum: Studies in the Classical Tradition 10 
(1987): 85-86, has established that the "Vita Senecae" and the "Oratio Senecae," which 
previous scholars attributed to Vergerio (e.g.. Smith, Epist., xvi n. 2), actually formed part 
of Sicco Polenton's biography of Seneca {Script. III. Lat. Ling., lib. XVII, B. L. Ullman, ed. 
[Rome, 1928], 482-85, 493-94). Before completing the work on Latin authors, Polenton had 
already extrapolated the chapter on Seneca and sent it to Enrico Scarampo, the bishop of 
Feltre. Wolfgang Speyer, "Tacitus, Annalen 14, 53/56 und ein angeblicher Briefwechsel 
zwischen Seneca und Nero," Rheinisches Museum fiir Philologie 114 (1971): 351-59, published 
the exchange between Seneca and Nero as letters forged by a humanist; two years later, he 
corrected himself in "Sicco Polenton und ein angeblicher Briefwechsel zwischen Seneca und 
Nero," Rheinisches Museum fiir Philologie 116 (1973): 95-96. Polenton studied "the poets and 
eloquence" under Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna at Padua {Script. III. Lat. Ling., lib. VI, 
Ullman, ed., 166: "Pubescens vero poetisque ac eloquentiae studens, audiebam loannem Ra- 
vennatem, Cursini grammatici filium"). Several declamations written during the Renaissance, 
which were frequently collected in humanist miscellanies, became teaching texts for instruc- 
tion in oratory. Among the most popular were Salutati's declamation of Lucretia and the 
short speeches attributed to Athenians debating the policies to adopt before Alexander of 
Macedon. See Enrico Menesto, Coluccio Salutati editi e inediti latini dal Ms. 53 della Biblio- 
teca Comunaledi Todi, Res Tudertinae 12 (Todi: s.t., 1971); Berthold Louis Ullman, 7^e Hu- 
manism of Coluccio Salutati, Medioevo e umanesimo4 (Padua: Antenore, 1963), 34; Ronald 
G. Witt, Hercules at the Crossroads: The Life, Works, and Thought of Coluccio Salutati, Duke 
Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 
1983), 83 n. 23; Stephanie H. Jed, Chaste Thinking: The Rape of Lucretia and the Birth of Hu- 
manism (Bloomington, Ind., and Indianapolis, Ind.: Indiana Univ. Press, 1989), 18-50; and 
Remigio Sabbadini, "Antonio da Romagno e Pietro Marcello," Nuovo archivio veneto 30 
(1915): 221-24. 

classicizing Oratory 39 

have to serve, I do not want to be poor; if I have to be poor, I don't 
want to serve." In exchange for special food, Giovanni performed a 
number of demeaning tasks for Francesco Novello: he fanned him, 
played games with him in the evening, tickled his feet to relax him 
before sleeping, helped him undress for bed, and slept with his clothes 
on in the event the prince required his services on short notice. When 
other courtiers tired of Giovanni's favored treatment at court, they 
schemed to have the portions and quality of his food reduced. By 1402, 
Giovanni had resigned his post in disgust. ^^ 

Adolescent student of a disillusioned master, Vergerio seemed less 
jaded about the potential of political life. He viewed it from the perspec- 
tive of an outsider who wished to enter, and he became convinced that 
oratory supplied the key to unlocking the door. His friends actually ac- 
cused him of spending too much time on oratory, and his surviving 
corpus indicates his preoccupation in that regard from the years 1392 to 
1394.^' Vergerio composed three orations for delivery at events at the 
court of Francesco Novello,^° and he also wrote the first panegyrics of 
Saint Jerome, which he delivered in churches in the vicinity of Padua 
and Capodistria. That corpus supplies evidence of a conscious priority 
on Vergerio's part. His dedication to humanist studies led him to 
recover the classical style of oratory and the spirit of classical culture, 
which placed the orator at the center of public life.^^ Orators in an- 

'* See Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna, Dragmalogia de eligibili vitae genere, H. 
Lanneau Eaker, ed. and trans., Bucknell Renaissance texts in translation, in conjunction with 
The Renaissance Society of America: Renaissance Texts Series 7 (Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell 
Univ. Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 1980), 73-81; Sabbadini, Giovanni 
da Ravenna, 52-58, 78-89; and Kohl, "Introduction," 21, 24-27. 

" Epist., 115-17; and Leonardo Smith, "Note cronologiche III-V," 96-113. 

^ The three orations may be declamations composed by Vergerio in order to demon- 
strate the advantages of following classical principles. No evidence exists to prove that they 
were delivered publicly. In the case of the funeral oration for Francesco il Vecchio, neither 
Vergerio himself (De dignissimo funebri apparatu, RIS 16:193A-94B) nor the Gatari chroni- 
cles {RIS, n.s., 17.1:441-44) mention an oration by him, though both treat of other orations 
on the same occasion. One manuscript (cod. Marc. lat. XI.56, fol. 72) labels the oration for 
Cermisone a supplica. All three of the orations survive in a limited group of manuscripts: 
they number twelve for the oration to celebrate Francesco Novello's return, eleven for the 
funeral oration and five for the oration on behalf of Cermisone. Details will appear in the 
finding-list of Vergerio manuscripts appended to the edition of the Jerome panegyrics 
forthcoming from MRTS. See also Smith, Epist, 117n., 432n., 492-93 n. 3. 

^' See, in general, Galletti, L'eloquenza, 411-553; Jerrold E. Seigel, Rhetoric and Philoso- 
phy in Renaissance Humanism: The Union of Eloquence and Wisdom, Petrarch to Valla 
(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968), 200-248; and Ronald G. Witt, "MedievaUrj ^icra- 
minis and the Beginnings of Humanism: A New Construction of the Problem," Renaissance 
Quarterly 35 (1982): 3, 20-21. 


cient Rome did not pursue oratory as a profession in itself. They ac- 
quired training in the art of pubHc speaking in order to participate in 
poHtical life. 

Paduan political society in the fourteenth century had turned to a 
small-scale monarchy typical of many of the city-states of central and 
northern Italy. Pressures had increased on the communal government 
from both ends of the political spectrum. The great noble families 
sought to increase their leverage against rival families through marriage 
alliances. The growth of the urban poor occasionally led to public tur- 
moil. When competition with neighboring city-states triggered wars, the 
Paduan commune turned to the Carrara family as proven leaders of a 
powerful faction within the governing oligarchy. The governing elite 
commissioned the Carrara to repress centrifugal forces within the 
city-state and to defeat the forces who attacked from without .^^ 

In the period of Carrara rule, the regime governed effectively when 
it built consensus within the ruling elite and rallied public support to its 
cause. Due to financial problems, however, it did not always operate ac- 
cording to such magnanimous ideals.^^ The regime used consultative as- 
semblies and ritual activities to foster its goals. The Carrara despot met 
with members of the governing elite to determine public policy and 
wartime strategy. That elite included professional administrators drawn 
from the ranks of lawyers and notaries as well as intellectuals involved 
in the activities of the university. The trend to expand membership in 
government beyond the magnate class had begun in the communal era 
and continued during Carrara rule.^'* Even so, the regime excluded the 
majority of citizens from participation, particularly the lesser guildsmen. 
However, to prevent unrest and foster active support, those citizens 
were gathered together to approve decisions for war and peace and to 
participate in public celebrations of the regime's success.^^ 

^ J. K. Hyde, Padua in the Age of Dante (Manchester: Manchester University Press, and 
New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966), 24-25, 82-83, 193-210, 220-310. 

^ The Visconti governors of Padua gathered testimony on the heavy exactions made by 
Francesco il Vecchio in the years immediately prior to his abdication in 1388; see Roberto 
Cessi, "Il malgovemo di Francesco il Vecchio signore di Padova,'Mm del R. Istituto Veneto 
di scienze, lettere ed arti 66, no. 2 (1906-7): 741-48; and Benjamin G. Kohl, "Carrara, Fran- 
cesco da, il Vecchio," D5/ 20:654. By 1400, the Carrara allegedly owned one-quarter of the 
territory of Padua; see Lauro Martines, Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance 
Italy (New York: Knopf, 1979), 166-67. In general, see Kohl, "Government and Society in 
Renaissance Padua," The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 2 (1972): 205-14. 

^^ Gatari, Cronaca carrarese, RIS, n.s., 17.1:185, 264-65, 311-15, 326-29, 528-29, 547-48, 
570-71; and Hyde, Padua in the Age of Dante, 121-75. 

^^ Gatari, Cronaca carrarese, RIS, n.s., 17.1:165, 198, 207, 275-76 (for triumphal proces- 

Classicizing Oratory 41 

By the last quarter of the fourteenth century, the regime also used 
ostensibly private occasions for public purposes. For example, the wed- 
dings of members of the Carrara house became occasions for public fes- 
tivities. It was appropriate to involve the citizenry in the celebration of 
those weddings because they had a fundamentally political scope. Fran- 
cesco il Vecchio and his son Francesco Novello arranged the marriage of 
their children to the sons and daughters of powerful neighboring ruling 
families: the Frangipani of Segna, the Este of Ferrara, the Gonzaga of 
Mantua, and the Da Varano of Camerino. The marriages formed part of 
a broader diplomatic strategy designed to strengthen the city-state's posi- 
tion in the wars of the late Trecento. The ceremonies virtually erased 
the lines between private and public: Padua's subordinate classes were 
invited to participate. The festivities were intended to foster patriotic 
spirit. Sharing such an occasion with the general populace underlined, in 
turn, the magnanimity of the regime.^^ In a similar fashion, the regime 
began to decree elaborate public funeral commemorations for Carrara 
family members, for Paduan military leaders, for allied generals, and for 
an intellectual like Petrarch whom the ruling family had patronized in 
order to exploit his European prestige.^ 

Pierpaolo Vergerio consciously sensed the effectiveness of such a pol- 

sions and similar victory celebrations), and ibid., 94-95, 100, 125, 474-76, 528-29 (for public 
announcements of war and alliances and for diplomatic rituals). In general, see Benajmin G. 
Kohl, "Political Attitudes of North Italian Humanists in the Late Trecento," Studies in Me- 
dieval Culture 4 (1974): 418-24. 

^^ Gauri, Cronaca carrarese, RIS, n.s., 17.1:59, 453-55, 498-501. Francesco Zabarella de- 
livered sermons at the weddings of Gigliola da Carrara to Niccolo HI d'Este in 1397 and of 
Giacomo da Carrara to Belfiore da Varano in 1403. See Zonta, Zabarella, 30, 33-34; and 
Ester Pastorello, "Un'orazione inedita del Card. Zabarella per le nozze di Belfiore Varano 
con Giacomo da Carrara," Atti e memorie della R. deputazione di storia patria per le province 
delle Marche, n.s., 8 (1912): 121-28. 

^ Gatari, Cronaca carrarese, RIS, n.s., 17.1:138 (funeral of Petrarch at Arqua, 1374); 158- 
59 (funeral of Fina Buzzacarini, wife of Francesco il Vecchio, 1378), 165 (commemoration 
of Luciano Doria, admiral of the Genoese fleet, 1379); 440-44 (funeral of Francesco il Vec- 
chio, 1393); 463 (funerals of Pataro Buzzacarini and Giacomino dei Vitaliani who were fatal- 
ly wounded in the Paduan victory at Govemolo, 1397); 544-45 (funeral of Taddea d'Este, 
wife of Francesco Novello, 1404); 560 (funeral of Alda da Gonzaga, wife of Francesco IE, 
1405). The Cronaca also has a lengthy account of the funeral for Giangaleazzo Visconti at 
Milan in 1402 (ibid., 492-96). Zabarella delivered a sermon at the funerals of Pataro Buzzaca- 
rini (1397), Nicolo da Carrara (1398), Giovanni Ludovico Lambertazzi (1401), and Arcoano 
Buzzacarini (1403). See further Margaret Plant, "Patronage in the Circle of the Carrara Fam- 
ily: Padua, 1337-1405," in F. W. Kent and Patricia Simons with J. C. Eade, eds., Patronage, 
Art, and Society in Renaissance Italy (Canberra: Humanities Research Centre Australia, and 
Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987), 177-81, 189-91; and John M. McManamon, Funeral 
Oratory and the Cultural Ideals of Italian Humanism (Chapel Hill, N.C., and London: Univ. 
of North Carolina Press, 1989), 292. 


itics of spectacle. That is clear in his lengthy description of the funeral com- 
memoration organized for Francesco da Carrara il Vecchio on 19 and 20 
November 1393. After the elder Francesco had died in prison, Giangaleazzo 
Visconti released his body for burial in Padua. In his description of the 
events, Vergerio first emphasized their consonance with classical practice. 
Romans had used commemorative memorials like funeral masks and tombs 
to inspire the populace to heroic service of the state. The local remains of 
such tombs still testified to Padua's greatness in Roman times.^* Vergerio 
then described the composition of the funeral procession which accompa- 
nied the former despot to his burial. The procession became a way to 
render the city-state visible and to intimate the proper political hierarchy, 
which culminated in Carrara leadership.^' 

The vowed religious and the clergy of the city and surrounding country- 
side led the procession to endow it with an immediate air of the sacred. 
Next came a contingent of destitute Paduans, to whom the regime had 
given new clothing for the occasion. Behind them marched those individu- 
als who had benefitted from the amnesty declared by Francesco Novello. 
The regime thus placed signs of generous paternalism near the front of the 
line of march. The heart of the procession consisted of the governing elite, 
grouped around the bier of the despot. The bier itself comprised the central 
element, and it was accompanied by the most trusted collaborators of the 
Carrara family. Immediately behind the bier came Francesco Novello and 
his eldest sons. He thus signaled to all present his intention to govern by 
following his father's policies. The representatives of allied foreign powers 
accompanied the Carrara in the procession as they had promised to do in 
the struggle against Visconti aggression. 

Following the procession, parallel rites for the deceased further un- 
derlined the basic political division of Paduan political society into elite 

28 ppv, De dignissimo funebri apparatu, RIS 16:189A-B: "Apud quos, cum optima ratio- 
ne facta omnia intelllgam, Ille in primis percelebris antiquitatis mos ingenue mihi probatus 
est, ut, cum claros viros et bene de virtute meritos munere^ laudibus honoribusque vivos de- 
corassent, plurimum tamen et mortuis officiorum praeberent, et diutumae, quoad possent, 
clari nominis memoriae consulerent. Qua ratione cernimus vestustas illustrium virorum 
imagines, exesa situque ruentia sepulcra maiorum videmus, ac perpetua litterarum monimen- 
ta legere avidi aliquando solemus, in quibus et de summis pace belloque confectis rebus et 
de amplissimis superiorum nostrorum laudibus agitur." 

^' Ibid., 16:190A-92C. See the description in Gatari's Cronaca carrarese, RIS, n.s., 
17.1:441-44. The Gatari made no mention of the presence of the poor and the criminals in 
the procession, and they paired a member of the Carrara family with the ambassadors of 
each of the allied states (Venice, Florence, Bologna, and Ferrara). A description of the entire 
ritual was published by Giovanni Cittadella, Storia della dominazione carrarese in Padova 
(Padua, 1842), 2:248-54. 

classicizing Oratory 43 

and masses. The majority of the population attended the funeral mass in 
Padua's cathedral. Federigo da Venezia, a Dominican friar, delivered his 
funeral sermon first in Latin and again in Italian to assure that as many 
as possible could comprehend his words. While the rites proceeded in 
church, the governing elite and foreign ambassadors had left the cathe- 
dral to assemble in the courtyard of the Carrara Palace nearby. Seated 
according to strict protocol, they listened to a Latin eulogy composed 
by Giovanni Ludovico Lambertazzi, a lawyer and supporter of the 
regime. The next day, the university likewise offered its commemora- 
tion of the deceased despot, during which Francesco Zabarella delivered 
the sermon in Latin. Francesco's body was permanently interred in a 
monumental tomb in the baptistery.^° 

Vergerio set himself apart from his fellow intellectuals, including those 
within the humanist movement, by intuiting that humanists could use a 
celebratory oration in the classical mode to enhance the political imagery of 
occasional public ceremonies. The oration should make the intended polit- 
ical significance clear to those who counted. Occasional or epideictic ora- 
tory was the least favored of the three genres specified by classical theorists 
of rhetoric. Those rhetoricians gave more attention to the judicial genre, 
which orators employed to accuse or defend a citizen in the courtroom, and 
to the deliberative genre, which orators used to advocate a course of policy 
in a political assembly. The celebratory character of political ritual in 
Vergerio 's day endowed epideictic oratory with greater vivacity and moved 
the other two genres into the background.^ ^ 

Vergerio wrote two epideictic orations for ceremonies which marked 
key events in the conflict between Giangaleazzo Visconti and the Car- 
rara. The first commemorated the anniversary of the restoration of 
Francesco Novello da Carrara to the office of lord of Padua. ^^ The 

*• PPV, De dignissimo funebri apparatu, RIS 16:192C-93C, esp. 193A: "Interea princeps 
et qui comitabantur, composito funere, in Curiam redeunt, ac suo quisque loco atque ordine 
consederunt, ubi quadratis porticibus spatiosus erat locus, atris undique aulaeis instructxis." 

^' On epideictic rhetoric, see Walter Beale, "Rhetorical Performative Discourse: A New 
Theory of Epideictic," P^/oiop/ry and Rhetoric 11 (1978): 221-26; Paul Oskar Kristeller, /?e- 
naissance Thought and Its Sources, Michael Mooney, ed. (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 
1979), 236-38, 248-49; George Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular 
Tradition from Ancient to Modem Times (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 
1980), 73-75; and Nigel G. Wilson, "Epideictic Practice and Theory," in Menander Rhetor, 
Donald A. Russell and Nigel G. Wilson, eds. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 11-34. 

" Following the suggestion of Leonardo Smith {Epist, 1 17n), David Robey ("Republicanism," 
8-9) assigned the oration a date of 1392, basing himself on the following remarks by Vergerio, 
Oratio ad Franciscum luniorem, RIS 16:205D: "Veniunt itaque hoc ipso die perpetua memoria 
posieritati consignando, quo iam tertio superiore anno, cum urbem reciperes teque ipsa reci- 

44 CHAPTER 3 _^ 

speech sought to assure lasting reconciHation between the ruler and his 
subjects. Vergerio recognized a need to dispel lingering suspicions on 
both sides, given that elements of the Paduan elite had collaborated with 
the regime established by Giangaleazzo Visconti. To achieve his pur- 
pose, Vergerio painted two pictures of Padua: one under Visconti domi- 
nation and the second under a restored Francesco Novello.^^ The juxta- 
position of those images dramatized the damage wrought by Visconti 
overlordship and the renewal achieved under the benevolent govern- 
ment of Francesco Novello. 

Vergerio declared that Padua had suffered gravely under Visconti 
tyranny, and his first picture proved it. The violent pillaging by the 
forces of occupation left the city deserted and in ruin. From a flourish- 
ing urban center of civilization, Padua had regressed toward a state of 
decay and abandonment. Vergerio crafted the oration in such a way that 
he might gesture toward Padua's citadel {arx) to sear his point into the 
memory of his listeners. Built as an armory to protect the entire citizen 
body, the citadel had been stripped of its weaponry by a small clique of 
perfidious collaborators with Visconti rule. So emptied of its store of 
armaments, it constituted a metaphor for the city in its unprotected 
state before avaricious predators.^'* 

peret. . . ." Francesco Novello was designated signore in a public ceremony on 8 September 1390. 
Correct Roman reckoning in such a case would be inclusive, but the awkward addition of 
"superiore" by Vergerio makes me wonder if he might wish to indicate the year 1393. At that 
juncture (September 1393), Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna had already begun to teach rhetoric 
in Padua. In general, see McManamon, "Innovation," 9-11. 

" Vergerio stitched the entire oration together using verbs of seeing and of mental 
imagery: video (204A), cernerem (204B), aspicio (204C), videtis (204D), unde videre . . . vide- 
rique . . . possum (204E), aspicis . . . agnoscis (205C), videbant . . . videres (206C), indue in 
animum . . . illius noctis imaginem ... ex memoria colligo (206D), inspectante universe 
populo (207A), aspicimus (209A), possum memorare (209D), quam grate se videndum 
praebet . . . quam iucundum est animis . . . aspicere . . . quam gratum de se spectaculum facit 
. . . postremo quam gratissime . . . videre te existimas (209E-210B), videmus (21 IB), quod 
video (21 IC), videbis . . . videbis . . . videres (211C-D), vidisti (212A), cum viderem ... in 
summo honore vidissem . . . viderem (212B), videre . . . iucundum est . . . videre banc urbem 
(212C), videre soliti atque in his imaginibus et nati et enutriti . . . viderent . . . cernere fas est 
. . . viderunt (212E), viderim (213A-B), vidisti quo pacto (213D), et vidimus et videmus 
(214B), in studia mea respicio .. . imagines gloriae et virtutum docimienta colligeret (214E-15A). 

'* PPV, Oratio ad Franciscum luniorem, RIS 16:209A-E, 212B-E, esp. 212D-E: "Urbs 
vidua solitudine, frequens populus suspicione, tormentis, inedia afflictus, tecta inhabitata et 
ruinae proxima, forum fraudibus atque avaritiae patens, Curia ornatissima quondam tum 
spurcissimis hominibus habitata, arx immunita et (ut vere adiiciam) imminuta suspicionibus 
parvisque consiliis referta, armis vero et reliquis impedimentis vacua penitus in qua tu pul- 
cherrimum omnium gentium armamentarium constitueras, ut bello quae necessaria essent 
abunde suppeditaret — arx, inquam, perpetuo reclusa, nuUis praeter paucissimis accessibilis." 

Classicizing Oratory 45 

Vergerio employed a second image to portray the transformation of 
Padua that Francesco Novello effected, after he had fulfilled his vow to 
be the first to breach the walls and liberate the city. Vergerio invited his 
audience to look around the piazza in which they had assembled before 
the Carrara Palace {Curia). There, the victorious soldiers of their despot 
stood in formation, forces necessary to the city-state's survival in war- 
time and a colorful embellishment to civic life in peacetime. Secondly, 
crowds of young men attended the ceremony to demonstrate the patri- 
otism that accompanied their regained freedom. Finally, the rest of the 
citizenry and foreign residents (such as Vergerio) had turned out to ex- 
press their gratitude. The ceremony and the oration formed one mes- 
sage: public praise before such a willing audience indicated that peace ex- 
isted once again within the walls of the city.^^ 

Vergerio further invited the crowd to see in that moment of celebra- 
tion the visual representation of the restoration of legitimate govern- 
ment. Under Francesco Novello, the proper organs of government had 
begun to function: a council of the best citizens {collegium) to advise the 
ruler, a popular assembly (parlamentum) to legislate, magistrates to dis- 
pense justice, and a qualified special administrator in Michele da Rabat- 
ta.^ The speech concluded with specific proposals for the governing 
elite.''' Vergerio reminded the despot of the devastation wrought upon 
the fields and fortified towns {municipia) of the Paduan countryside. The 
destruction there had had deleterious effects on the city's marketplace. 
His analysis was shrewd: from communal days the city's economy had 
developed as the city succeeded in monopolizing the local market in 
food and goods.'^ To stimulate recovery in the countryside, Vergerio 
urged a series of measures that included subsidies, tax exemptions, and 
an amnesty for disloyal farmers. For the city, Vergerio focused upon 
two reforms. With ill-concealed self-interest, he urged Francesco Novello 

35 ppY^ Oratio ad Franciscum luniorem, RIS 16:205D-E: "Cum enim ferro res ageretur, 
abstinere verbis et ferro ac viribus confligere necesse fuit, quandoquidem non facile inter 
strepitus hominum armorumque fragores verba pacis et laetitiae dici potuissent." On the 
Carrara Reggia, see Plant, "Patronage," 181-85. 

^ PPV, Oratto aJ Franciscum luniorem, RIS 16:209E-10B, 213A-D. Kohl, "Government 
and Society," 207, pointed out that the only major communal office suppressed by the Car- 
rara regime was the maggior consiglio, whose role was reduced to approving the election of 
each Carrara to the despot's office. 

^^ PPV, Oratio ad Franciscum luniorem, RIS 16:213D-14A. 

^ Hyde, Padua in the Age of Dante, 29-56. The model for Vergerio's description may well 
have been Cicero's Actio secunda against Verres; see Beth Innocenti, "Towards a Theory of Vivid 
Description as Practiced in Cicero's Verrine Orations," Rhetorica 12 (1994): 372. 


to restore the study of Latin letters and the other liberal arts.^' Second- 
ly, he must assure a greater state of military preparedness on the part of 
the citizenry in general and especially of key members of the Carrara 
family. The Visconti threat had not disappeared. 

Much of the speech commended to Francesco Novello the model of 
his father, Francesco il Vecchio, who had undertaken protective mea- 
sures for city and countryside and rewarded deserving individuals with 
positions of responsibility regardless of their social background.'*^ Ver- 
gerio developed that theme in a second oration that he composed for the 
funeral obsequies of the elder Francesco. He sought to accomplish two 
related goals: to foster loyalty to the Carrara regime and to make policy 
recommendations to its members. To accomplish those ends, he played 
upon the power of sight as he had in the previous discourse. He first of- 
fered a verbal description of the panorama that he saw as he addressed 
the gathered throng.'*^ The geographic components of the state — the 
countryside, fortified towns, and capital city — were depicted in superla- 
tive terms {uberrima, amplissima et omatissima, opulentissima). Vergerio 
wove those components into a tapestry, emphasizing the symbiotic rela- 
tionship that must be maintained if Padua's economy were to prosper. 

As he singled out various groups of mourners who were present, he 
recreated the order of the state which he had described in his account of 
the funeral procession. He called attention to Francesco Novello and his 
son to instill a sense of dynasty. The elements of greater dignity in the 
state were named first: foreign ambassadors from allied states, the Car- 
rara family, the clergy, the magnates from whom Francesco had chosen 
his most trusted advisors, the soldiers, and the teachers of the liberal 
arts. To emphasize that all orders were represented, he explicitly noted 
the grief of the women of Padua and extended those feelings metaphori- 
cally to the city's churches and civic buildings. At the funeral all of 
Padua rallied around the Carrara ruler. Finally, by calling attention to 
the "plebeian character" of the death of Francesco as a prisoner, he 

^' In the peroration, RIS 16:214E-15B, Vergerio elaborated upon the need to patronize 
the humanities. He posited a direct rapport between the lack of great orators and poets in 
Padua and the lack of great deeds by her citizens. Humanist praise stimulated virtue; with- 
out humanists, there had never been less call for virtue. 

^° PPV, Oratio ad Franctscum luniorem, RIS 16:207B-C, 208A-C, 210A-B, 210D, 212B, 
212C-D, 215A. 

^' PPV, Oratio in funere Francisci Senioris, RIS 16:194E-95A, where the succession of 
verbs reads: "intueor, aspicio, intelligo, prospecto, video, cemo." See also Robey, "Republi- 
canism," 9. 

classicizing Oratory 47 

stressed the grave threat that war still presented to Paduan society. Gian- 
galeazzo Visconti had overturned the proper political order/^ 

To console his audience for such widespread grief, Vergerio invited 
them all to contemplate the great virtues that Francesco il Vecchio had 
manifested in his life. Vergerio progressed in his description from 
domestic to public virtues, mimicking the spread of power outward 
from the Carrara household. In his private life, Francesco had acted 
with special care on behalf of the men of proven worth. They had be- 
come his friends and advisors. Vergerio treated the deeds of public life 
in terms of war and peace. War appropriately came first; Padua had 
found herself constantly at war during the last fifteen years of Frances- 
co's reign. Francesco had adopted measures to assure the defense of the 
entire state. As proof of his success in battle, one need only gaze upon 
monuments built to recall his victories, including the chapel in which 
Vergerio purportedly was speaking. In peacetime, Francesco had shown 
himself a generous patron. He refurbished parts of the city, supported 
the teachers of the studia humanitatis, and granted his soldiers appropri- 
ate rewards.'*^ The policies that Vergerio had just celebrated were to 
function as a blueprint for the rule of his son, Francesco Novello. 

The third of Vergerio's Paduan speeches sought to win clemency for 
Bartolomeo Cermisone, who had shifted his allegiance from the Carrara 
to Giangaleazzo Visconti after the flight of Francesco Novello in No- 
vember of 1388. Vergerio prepared his judicial defense by reminding the 
despot that over a long period Cermisone had proven himself one of the 
most reliable associates of the Carrara family. Bartolomeo had led the 
troops of the Carrara into Verona in triumphant conquest just a few 
years earlier. Vergerio then proceeded to appeal for clemency, exhorting 
Francesco Novello to embrace the virtue that had reconciled Roman so- 
ciety after the traumatic experience of the civil wars. There were miti- 
gating factors for Cermisone's conduct. Cermisone had urged further re- 
sistance rather than flight from Padua in 1388. Francesco could not hold 
Cermisone accountable for the mistaken strategy that led to the capture 
of his father and the temporary loss of Padua. Moreover, Francesco had 
refused Cermisone's express desire to accompany him into exile. Gianga- 
leazzo Visconti had forced Cermisone to serve him under threat of 
death; Cermisone had submitted only on the condition that he never 
have to bear arms against Francesco. The matter was eventually resolved 

*^ PPV, Oratio m funere Francisci Senions, RIS 16:195B-D, 196B-D. 
^' Ibid., 16:197A-E; and Plant, "Patronage," 187-89, 194-95. 


as part of the peace negotiations between Milan and Padua.^ 

When one compares Vergerio's orations to those of contemporaries in 
Padua, in Italy, and in Europe, there can be no question of the originality 
of his oratory. The clearest evidence emerges by comparing Vergerio's 
funeral speech for Francesco il Vecchio to those delivered by Giovanni 
Ludovico Lambertazzi and Francesco Zabarella5^ Lambertazzi and Zaba- 
rella found the rhetorical inspiration for their methods of invention in the 
preaching handbooks known as the artes praedicandi. Those lengthy treatis- 
es offered clear and concise directives for writing a sermon that used a verse 
from Scripture as its organizing theme. The preacher divided and subdivided 
the theme into several parts and amplified each of the parts through logical 
arguments, appropriate comparisons, and illustrative anecdotes. The pat- 
terned sermons that Lambertazzi and Zabarella wrote for the funeral of 
Francesco il Vecchio illustrate that the artes affected the development of 
secular oratory. In the final analysis, it is fair to characterize both sermons 
as syllogisms written large. The theme and initial divisions established a 
series of qualities requisite for an outstanding ruler. In related subdivisions, 
the two preachers adduced deeds from the life of Francesco il Vecchio to 
prove that he possessed the specified qualities. That made it possible for 
them to argue that Francesco typified the highest ideals proposed for the 
prince in the Bible. 

■" PPV, Oratio pro fortissimo viro Cermisone, Epist., 433-35. In the peace treaty signed 
at Genoa in January of 1392, a clause specified that Cermisone should have his property in 
Padua returned to him. By 1397, however, Cermisone had renewed his allegiance to Gianga- 
leazzo Visconti. See Smith, Epist, 432-33 n. 1; Tiziana Pesenti, Professori e promotori di me- 
dicina nello Studio di Padova dal 1405 al 1509: Repertorio bio-bibliografico, Contributi alia 
storia dell'Universita di Padova 16 (Padua: Centro per la storia dell'Universita, and Trieste: 
LINT, 1984), 72-73; and Michael E. Mallett, "Cermisone, Bartolomeo," DBI liJ75. 

*^ On the three funeral speeches, see McManamon, "Innovation," 12-24; and McMana- 
mon, Funeral Oratory, 8-11, 91-93. For the artes praedicandi, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, 
"Rhetoric in Medieval and Renaissance Culture," in James J. Murphy, ed.. Renaissance Elo- 
quence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Renaissance Rhetoric (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and 
London: Univ. of California Press, 1983), 13-15; John W. O'Malley, "Erasmus and the His- 
tory of Sacred Rhetoric: The Ecclesiastes of 1535," Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook 5 
(1985): 4-6; and David L. D'Avray, The Preaching of the Friars: Sermons Diffused from Paris 
before 1300 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 162-80, 
242-48. For the affects of thematic preaching on secular oratory, see D'Avray, "Sermons on 
the Dead before 1350," Studi medievali, ser. 3, 31, no. 1 (1990): 208-23; and Gianfranco Fio- 
ravanti, "Sermones in lode della filosofia e della logica a Bologna nella prima meta del XIV 
secolo," in Dino Buzzetti, Maurizio Ferriani, and Andrea Tabarroni, eds., L'insegnamento 
della logica a Bologna nel XIV secolo, Studi e Memorie per la storia dell'Universita di 
Bologna, n.s., 8 (Bologna: Istituto per la Storia dell'Universita, 1992), 166-72. In general, see 
Ronald G. Witt, "Civic Humanism and the Rebirth of the Ciceronian Oration," Modem 
Language Quarterly 51 (1990): 171-78. 

classicizing Oratory 49 

Vergerio, in contrast, worked from the principles for composing a 
public speech specified in the handbooks written by Cicero and other 
Roman rhetors. His oration had no theme, no appeal to authorities to 
establish theoretical propositions, and no syllogistic reasoning to prove 
a conclusion about the quality of Francesco's rule. Rather, in keeping 
with the theory of pathos as a mode of persuasion, he sought to exploit 
the emotions of the moment by focusing initially on the universal grief 
engendered by the loss of Francesco il Vecchio and then upon the con- 
soling character of his great deeds on behalf of the entire city-state. Ver- 
gerio also demonstrated greater attention to style, using figures of speech 
like apostrophe and antithesis to heighten the emotional impact of his 
words. Likewise, his purpose differed from that of Lambertazzi and 
Zabarella. Both of them sought to argue to a logical conclusion predicat- 
ed upon proofs that Francesco il Vecchio possessed the virtues that 
made for an outstanding ruler. Vergerio attempted to depict an image in 
words that would inspire admiration and imitation, especially by Fran- 
cesco Novello and his circle of oligarchs. 

Examining funeral orations that survive from other Italian city-states 
and from Europe leads one to the same conclusion. Among the human- 
ists of the late Trecento and early Quattrocento, Pierpaolo Vergerio was 
the first to exploit the medium of classicizing oratory. He advanced his 
proposal for reform of oratory according to classical standards by writ- 
ing examples of such oratory. Realizing that vivid sights inspired human 
beings, Vergerio proposed that humanists create such sights in words. 
To accomplish his political purposes, Vergerio used the most vivid and 
memorable images. Those images stood in sharp contrast to the syllo- 
gisms employed by the leading orators of Padua, Giovanni Ludovico 
Lambertazzi and Francesco Zabarella. Like the visual artists of the day, 
humanists might effect radical change in their portraits by adopting clas- 
sical standards for style and substance. They would also enhance their 
own political role, once they had demonstrated the ability to adduce evi- 
dence before the listeners' eyes and to shape the way in which the 
listeners interpreted that evidence.'** 

^ See D'Avray, "Sermons on the Dead," 218-23; and Ann C. Vasaly, Representations: 
Images of the World in Ciceronian Rhetoric (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford: Univ. of 
California Press, 1993), 50-59, 81-87. 


Petrarch's Legacy 

Pierpaolo Vergerio proposed to exercise his humanist talents in the 
public square of the city. However, they bore first fruit in an 
important scholarly task. Paduan members of the circle of Petrarch 
chose Vergerio as the editor of the Africa, the epic poem in which 
Petrarch portrayed Publius Cornelius Scipio as the embodiment of re- 
publican virtues. Hoping to be best remembered for the poem, Petrarch 
continued to revise the text throughout his life, but he left it incomplete 
when he died in 1374. Already in 1377, Coluccio Salutati had urged the 
circle of Paduan scholars in possession of Petrarch's manuscripts to pub- 
lish the work. Salutati wanted an editor to polish the text; to enhance 
the edition, Salutati also urged that the editor add a preface in praise of 
the work and a metrical series of argumenta summarizing the content of 
each of its nine books. After the Paduans had sent Salutati a copy of the 
autograph with Petrarch's marginal notes on metrical and historical 
problems in the text, Salutati amplified them with his own comments 
on the first two books. Although Salutati even offered to pay the costs, 
the Paduan circle did not choose him for the task.^ 

Vergerio may have received his commission as editor for the work as 
early as 1393, the probable year of his second sojourn in Florence. Ver- 

' See Aldo S. Bernardo, Petrarch, Scipio and the "Africa": The Birth of Humanism's 
Dream (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1962), 168-75; Vincenzo Fera, Antichi editori 
e lettori deWAfrica," Itinerari eruditi 2 (Messina: Universita degli studi. Centre di studi 
umanistici, 1984), 17-34; and Ronald G. Witt, Hercules at the Crossroads: The Life, Works, 
and Thought of Coluccio Salutati, Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 
(Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1983), 185-89. Bernardo offers the fullest treatment of 
the poem as an expression of Petrarchan ideals and scholarship. 


gerio would have left Padua shortly after the funeral of Francesco da 
Carrara il Vecchio in November of 1393 and remained in Florence until 
the following spring to study civil law. University records indicate that 
Vergerio was back in Padua to resume his law studies there when the 
school year began on 18 October 1394. His letters and official records 
further establish that he stayed in Padua until the end of the academic 
year in 1397, except for brief trips away from the city during the sum- 
mer recess. While in Florence, Vergerio took advantage of the opportu- 
nity to discuss the edition of the Africa with Salutati and saw the chan- 
cellor's notes on the text. By November of 1396, Vergerio had finished 
his edition.^ In the meantime, he began to wrestle with Petrarch's leg- 
acy to the humanist movement. 

Vergerio actually wrote a letter to Petrarch in the name of Cicero, 
defending the Roman politician against charges which Petrarch made in 
1345. In the most reliable codices, Vergerio's letter bears a date of 1 
August 1394.^ Francesco Zabarella likewise wrote a letter to Petrarch in 
defense of Cicero. When free from university obligations, Vergerio and 
Zabarella discussed the works of Cicero and amused themselves by en- 
gaging in writing exercises. Their letters may be the fruit of such a dis- 
cussion, which led them to compete in composing the better rebuttal of 
Petrarch's charges."^ The letters should be read against the background 
of Paduan politics as well. In June of 1394, Francesco Novello refused to 

^ Epist, 243-44: "sive quod ibidem [Florence] iura civilia, aliquot / interiectis annis, cum 
tu iam abesses, audivi." See further Leonardo Smith, ibid., xvi, 204-6 n. 1; David Robey, 
"P. P. Vergerio the Elder: Republicanism and Civic Values in the Work of an Early Italian 
Humanist," Past and Present, no. 58 (February 1973): 6, 33-34; and Tiziana Pesenti, Profes- 
son e promotori di medicina nello Studio di Padova dal 1405 al 1509: Repertorio hio-bihliogra- 
ftco, Contributi alia storia dell'Universita di Padova 16 (Padua: Centre per la storia 
dell'Universita, and Trieste: LINT, 1984), 161. Vincenzo Fera, in his Antichi editori, 83-88, 
and in his La revisione petrarchesca deWAfrica," Studi e testi 3 (Messina: Universita degli 
studi, Centro di studi umanistici, 1984), 8-9, supplies evidence that the work was circulating 
by November of 1396. Fera advanced the hypothesis that cod. Laurenziana Acquisti e Doni 
441 is a copy of Vergerio's working manuscript for the edition; see his "Annotazioni inedite 
del Petrarca al testo AdV Africa" IMU 23 (1980): 1-3, 12-13, 24-25. 

^ Smith, Epist., 437n. The letter must be dated after 1392, when Salutati had Cicero's 
Epistolae ad familiares copied from the recently rediscovered manuscript. 

^ Epist., 107 ("minorem seria et iucundae scripturae sibi horam vindicant") and ibid., 
153-54 ("Domi nos Cicero, eloquentiae atque honestatis fons, aperiebatur. Ilium regressi 
magnis desideriis adibamus et / in longam noctem audiebamus attenti"). Agostino Sottili, 
"La questione ciceroniana in una lettera di Francesco Zabarella a Francesco Petrarca (tav. 
rV)," Quademi per la storia dell'Universita di Padova 6 (1973): 30, 38, 54, argues that Verge- 
rio's letter depends upon that of Zabarella. I suspect that discussions between Zabarella and 
Vergerio explain the similarities. If there is dependence, it is more likely to be that of Zaba- 
rella upon Vergerio, who knew Cicero better. 

Petrarch's Legacy 53 

pay the tribute to Giangaleazzo Visconti agreed upon in the peace treaty 
of 1392.^ That act of defiance also angered Venice, Francesco's powerful 
ally, and threatened to plunge the Italian states into a new war. To chal- 
lenge the Carrara ruler's aggressive stance might well compromise one's 
standing at court or even bring one's life into danger. 

Vergerio used his letter to articulate a preference for Cicero's activist 
style of humanism over the more reserved style of Petrarch. In 1345, Pe- 
trarch had written to Cicero to censure his decision to abandon the leis- 
ure of retirement as an old man and throw himself again into the polit- 
ical battles of the Roman revolution.^ As a result of that action, Cicero 
compromised the lofty principles that he had previously advocated in 
speeches and writings and set in motion the chain of events that led to 
his assassination. Petrarch enumerated the inconsistent actions that char- 
acterized Cicero's final years. He abandoned the good advice of his 
friends and relatives as well as the cause of Pompey, his longtime pa- 
tron. Instead, he embraced the cause of demagogues like Julius Caesar 
and Octavian. Yet he lashed out at Mark Anthony in invectives filled 
with rage {furor). Petrarch could find no positive motives to justify that 
series of about-faces. Cicero could not have acted out of love for the re- 
public, which by his own admission had ceased to exist after Caesar's 
victory over Pompey. Nor could he claim to act out of sincere loyalty 
or defense of liberty {libertas); otherwise, he would never have curried 
favor with Octavian. Enticed by the false splendor of glory, Cicero 
acted impetuously, as though he were an adolescent and not a wise old 
sage. He should have remained in philosophical retreat as a silent protest 
against the destruction of the republic by the warlords of the Roman 

The consequences for Cicero were dramatic: he had returned to poli- 
tics disarmed of his greatest political weapon, his ethos as a public 
speaker. Ancient rhetorical theory had identified three ways for the 
orator to persuade an audience: by the strength of his arguments {logos), 
by the emotional response aroused within his listeners (pathos), and by 
the convincing character of his person {ethos). The Roman tradition of 

* M. Chiara Gangiizza Billanovich, "Carrara, Francesco da, il Novello," DBI 20:658. 

^ Lefamiliari 24.3 (Rossi and Bosco, eds., 4:225-27). See further Giuseppe Billanovich, 
"Petrarca e Cicerone," in Letteratura cUssica e umanistica, vol. 4 of Miscellanea Giovanni 
Mercati, Studi e testi 124 (Vatican City: BAV, 1946), 88-106; and Hans Baron, "The 
Memory of Cicero's Roman Civic Spirit in the Medieval Centuries and in the Florentine 
Renaissance," /n Search of Florentine Civic Humanism: Essays on the Transition from Medieval 
to Modem Thought (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988), 1:120-21. 


public speaking had broadened the question of character and made it 
central to matters of political persuasion. Whereas Aristotle had circum- 
scribed ethos to achieving credibility during one's speech, the Romans 
felt that the values advocated had to be consistent with one's previous 
life. For the Romans, ethos became an all-embracing integrity. By his 
praise for tyrants like Caesar and Augustus and his censure of Anthony, 
Cicero had irreparably vitiated his lifelong commitment to republican- 

Zabarella and Vergerio took issue with Petrarch's historical interpre- 
tation and his values. In defending Cicero, they accused Petrarch of un- 
derestimating the importance of the active life for the humanist intel- 
lectual. Zabarella wrote a shorter and less impassioned defense, which 
began where Petrarch had ended, with Cicero's death. Whereas Petrarch 
had rightly asserted that Cicero might have enjoyed blessed leisure in 
philosophical retreat, Cicero himself had the courage to take a stand on 
controversial matters that placed his life in danger. Given that nothing 
was more excellent than the pursuit of virtue, Cicero's death must be la- 
beled an act worthy of the best philosopher. His political commitment 
late in life harmonized with his deeds as a young politician, when he 
had saved Rome from the threat of Catiline. His values were consistent 
and his eloquence in no way compromised. 

Zabarella then moved on to Cicero's change in attitude toward Julius 
Caesar. He had appropriately adapted his public stand to the evolution 
of Caesar's politics. Zabarella thus suggested the wisdom of pragmatism 
in politics, a theme which Vergerio also developed. Cicero had censured 
Caesar when he seemed to practice a demagogic politics (popularis Cae- 
sar) and supported him when he seemed to aid the republic {reipublicae 
frugi). Likewise, Cicero had denounced Anthony for attempting to 
plunder Rome's resources. Zabarella closed his letter in rather gentle 
terms. In his estimation, Petrarch really wished to lose the debate. His 
personal preference for a solitary life of otium led him wrongly to cen- 

^ Le familiari, Rossi and Bosco, eds., 4:226-27: "Doleo vicem tuam, amice, et errorum 
pudet ac miseret, iamque cum eodem Bruto 'his artiVbus nihil tribuo, quibus te instructissi- 
mum fuisse scio.' [Cic. Ad Brut. 1.17.5] Nimirum quid enim iuvat alios docere, quid omatis- 
simis verbis semper de virtutibus loqui prodest, si te interim ipse non audias? Ah quanto sa- 
tius fuerat philosopho praesertim in tranquillo rure senuisse. . . ." On ethos, see George Ken- 
nedy, 777e Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World 300 B.C.-A.D. 300 (Princeton: Princeton 
Univ. Press, 1972), 57, 100-101; Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular 
Tradition from Ancient to Modem Times (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 
1980), 68, 80-81; and James M. May, Trials of Character: The Eloquence of Ciceronian Ethos 
(Chapel Hill, N.C., and London: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1988), 3-12. 

Petrarch's Legacy 55 

sure Cicero for sacrificing his life in public negotium} 

Vergerio shared certain lines of defense with his esteemed mentor 
and friend. Both sought to demolish the contention that Cicero had be- 
trayed his integrity by returning to public service. Rather, the act was a 
dramatic endorsement of a life dedicated to public service. Moreover, 
Vergerio similarly evaluated Cicero's conduct toward Julius Caesar. 
Cicero utilized praise or blame depending upon the course of actions 
that Caesar had adopted. Yet there are significant differences between 
the two letters. Vergerio wrote in the name of Cicero. Proficient in dec- 
lamation, Vergerio played the historical person, and thus indicated a 
close identification with Cicero as the ideal orator. Petrarch had accused 
Cicero of behaving like a headstrong adolescens. With obvious relish, 
Vergerio played that same role in criticizing Petrarch. Petrarch's accusa- 
tions undermined the suppositions upon which Vergerio intended to 
build his career. He still hoped to make his humanist skills the basis for 
a career in politics. Finally, Vergerio knew the Ciceronian corpus better 
than Zabarella, and he demonstrated a more subtle understanding of 
Roman politics. 

Vergerio began by asserting that Cicero had always been active in 
politics, on rare occasions in arms but usually as an orator. One should 
not be surprised by the flexibility of his positions: that followed from 
the variation in historical circumstances and human motives. Nor was 
Petrarch realistic in imagining Cicero free of rivals. Though politics rep- 
resented the way of life most beneficial for others, it attracted its fair 
share of immoral persons. Any individual of integrity could expect to 
arouse jealousy among some of his peers. Finally, one should not equate 
Cicero's pragmatism with a lack of ideological conviction. He refused to 
sacrifice the republic for the sake of peace. The republican system stood 
threatened when a member of the elite no longer had the possibility to 
speak freely. Safeguarding free speech was, for Vergerio, the litmus test 
of authentic government.' 

' Sottili, "Laquestione ciceroniana," 56-57. In general, see Maristella Lorch, "Petrarch, 
Cicero, and the Classical Pagan Tradition," in Albert Rabil, Jr., ed.. Humanism in Italy, vol. 
1 of Renaissance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, and Legacy (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsyl- 
vania Press, 1988), 77-82. 

' EpisL, 438-40, esp. 439: "Quam ob causam ut variarem necesse fuit aliquando et 
animum et orationem, quando tanta erat in rebus, tanta in moribus hominum variatio. Ita 
ergo multa et dixi et deploravi, ac multa ex sententia, crebro ut fit, variavi." For the Roman 
conception of freedom of speech, see Amaldo Momigliano, "La liberta di parola nel mondo 
antico," Rivista storica italiana 83 (1971): 520-22. 


Those positions are spelled out in his response to the specific charges 
that Petrarch made. Once civil war erupted in Rome, pitting the faction 
of Pompey against that of Julius Caesar, Cicero had to abandon his fun- 
damental quest for social peace. His alliances throughout the revolution 
were dictated by his perceptions of justice and worth {dignitas). That 
was especially true of his attitude toward Julius Caesar, Octavian, and 
Mark Anthony. Vergerio claimed that Cicero praised Caesar as long as 
he was convinced that Caesar was not seeking personal power but the 
common good. When Cicero felt that Caesar was driven by uncon- 
trolled desire (libido) to subvert the public order, Cicero turned to forth- 
right criticism. Vergerio intuited that Cicero never really trusted Caesar. 
In the end, Caesar's clemency had to be interpreted as an expression of 
absolute power, abrogating the constitutional order of laws enacted by 
the Senate. ^° 

Vergerio likewise contended that Cicero had awarded praise or 
blame to the other revolutionary leaders as they so deserved (pro meri- 
to). Vergerio's discussion of the case of Octavian is especially indicative 
of his own aristocratic politics. Octavian earned the approval of Cicero 
when he safeguarded "the standing of the Senate, the liberty of the 
people, and the comforts of the plebeians." He viewed the Roman Re- 
public as an oligarchy [senatus) acting on behalf of the politically active 
element (populus). The governing class bore a responsibility of paternal 
care toward the bulk of the citizenry (plebs). Octavian forfeited his op- 
portunity to become a true leading citizen (princeps civis) by turning to 
tyranny. Cicero preferred to lose his life rather than sit by and watch 
Roman liberty (libertas) destroyed. ^^ 

In the end, Cicero had proven to be a model of rhetorical ethos. He 
had consistently taught that true philosophy implies political commit- 
ment.^^ Only a coward fled from activism when it endangered one's 
life. Had Cicero had his wish, he would have given his life defending 
Rome against Catiline. His murder by Anthony's hired assassins, with 
the tacit complicity of Octavian, represented the supreme gesture of a 
life dedicated to defending the republic. Petrarch wrongly claimed that 

'° Eptst., 440-41. For Petrarch's turn toward a more positive interpretation of Julius 
Caesar, see Hans Baron, From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni: Studies in Humanistic and Political 
Literature (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1968), 29-40. 

" Epist., 442-43. 

'^ Ibid., 444, where Vergerio adduced passages from Cicero Tusc. 5.4.10, Div. 2.1.1, and 
Att. 10.8.8. 

' Petrarch's Legacy 57 

Cicero had lived in a way that was inconsistent with his teachings, 
Cicero's political ideal remained the free expression of one's convictions 
within the ruling aristocracy. He never reduced that ideal to attachment 
to an individual leader. 

Contemporary scholars since Hans Baron have generally seen this de- 
bate in terms of republican liberty and tyranny. ^^ The protagonists — 
Petrarch, Zabarella, and Vergerio — saw it in terms of political involve- 
ment by a humanist orator in the revolutionary struggles of the Roman 
Republic. Vergerio vigorously endorsed the historical relevance of 
Roman republican thought and the appropriate commitment of a hu- 
manist to public service. Ideal liberty {libertas) for Cicero never involved 
the creation of a political system that recognized some sort of inalien- 
able right. Nor did it grant to powerful members of society the right to 
act in whatever way they pleased. Roman political society had enacted 
laws which granted certain rights to the members of that society. 
Romans felt that liberty should contain an element of restraint. It also 
stood in dynamic tension with the notion of a prestige {dignitas) pos- 
sessed by the dominant element in Roman political society. Social 
concord depended in large part on respect for liberty on the part of the 

In agreement with Cicero's ideas, Vergerio defended the appropriate- 
ness of such a political society in his own day. Those who formed part 
of the ruling elite must always be free to express their political opinions. 
When individuals placed self-interest or factional control over the com- 
mon good {res publico), Roman society was plunged into violence and 
chaos. Roman historical legend closely associated unrestrained sexual de- 
sire {libido) with political violence and lust for power. ^^ The first Ro- 
man revolution against Etruscan tyranny purportedly gained revenge for 

" Hans Baron, The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republi- 
can Liberty in an Age of Classicism and Tyranny (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1955; 
rev. ed., Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1966), 121-29; David Robey, "Republicanism," 
3-17; and Robey, "Aspetti deH'umanesimo vei^eriano," in Viuore Branca and Same Gra- 
ciotti, eds., L'umanesimo in Istria, Civilta veneziana: Studi 38 (Florence: Olschki, 1983), 11- 

'* See Chaim Wirszubski, Libertas as a Political Idea at Rome during the Late Republic 
and Early Principate (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1950), 7-30; and Neal Wood, 
Cicero's Social and Political Thought (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: Univ. of California 
Press, 1988), 70-104, 150-51, 189, 194-95. 

'^ Ann C. Vasaly, "Personality and Power: Livy's Depiction of the Appii Claudii in the 
First Pentad," Transactions of the American Philological Association 117 (1987): 203-26, devel- 
ops this same theme with regard to Livy's treatment of the Appii Claudii. The Paduan Reg- 
gia had a "Camera of Lucretia." 


the brutal rape of Lucretia. Both the rape and the poHtical designs of the 
Tarquins constituted a passion to possess unlawful power over free 
individuals of worth. Moreover, the Tarquins had perfidiously attempt- 
ed to conceal their designs to violate the body politic under the guise of 
demagogic populism. Vergerio's Cicero perceived the same sort of unre- 
strained desire for domination at critical moments in the evolution of 
the policies of Caesar, Octavian, and Anthony. 

The surest political conviction expressed by Vergerio in his letter, 
therefore, endorses the viability of the republican system of Roman gov- 
ernment because that system emphasized the political worth of proven 
individuals within the context of a restricted aristocracy. It may be an 
endorsement of Florence's republican system against the tyranny of 
Giangaleazzo Visconti, as Hans Baron has argued. That would be true 
insofar as Florence represented the sort of harmonious oligarchy that 
Cicero and Vergerio applauded and insofar as Giangaleazzo represented 
a demagogic tyrant who trampled upon the prestige of the politically 
elite in grabbing absolute power. It may also be a warning to Francesco 
Novello. Insofar as the Carrara despot operated as the princeps civis ac- 
cording to the model of the good Octavian and not as an absolute ty- 
rant, he deserved public support. However, Vergerio saw dangerous 
demagoguery in Francesco Novello 's aggressive policies which threat- 
ened the stability of Paduan society. Through Cicero, Vergerio carefully 
delineated the proper power that the Carrara should exercise in their 

Vergerio left no ambiguity regarding his position on the social role 
of a humanist intellectual. In opposition to Petrarch's lifelong ambiva- 
lence about political activism, Vergerio offered an unconditional en- 
dorsement.^^ In fact, Vergerio urged that humanists express their free 
convictions and that societies contrive political structures to safeguard 
free speech. Genuinely free public advocacy became the criterion for the 

'^ Regarding Petrarch's limited political activity, see Jerrold E. Seigel, Rhetoric and Phi- 
losophy in Renaissance Humanism: The Union of Eloquence and Wisdom, Petrarch to Valla 
(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968), 31-62; Manlio Pastore Stocchi, "La biblioteca del 
Petrarca," in // Trecento, vol. 2 of Storia della cultura veneta (Vicenza: Pozza, 1976), 536-57; 
and Nicholas Mann, "Petrarca e la cancelleria veneziana," in // Trecento, vol. 2 of Storia 
della cultura veneta (Vicenza: Pozza, 1976), 517-35. In general, see O. B. Hardison, Jr., "The 
Orator and the Poet: The Dilemma of Humanist Literature," The Journal of Medieval and 
Renaissance Studies 1 (1971): 33-44; Ronald G. Witt, "Medieval ars dictaminis and the Be- 
ginnings of Humanism: A New Construction of the Problem," Renaissance Quarterly 35 
(1982): 1-35; and John W. O'Malley, "Grammar and Rhetoric in the Pietas of Erasmus," 
The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 18 (1988): 81-98. 

Petrarch's Legacy 59 

authentic humanist and the authentic pohtical society. Internal peace 
would be best assured when the consciousness of the powerful few was 
raised. Humanists would assist the proper functioning of government by 
awarding appropriate measures of praise or censure for the political con- 
duct of the elite. Public panegyric and written history became the priv- 
ileged media through which humanists might instill civic values and 
exemplify their realization in historical deeds. 

Around 1395, Zabarella and Vergerio decided to test their convic- 
tions before a Paduan audience. On the anniversary of Petrarch's death 
(19 July), Vergerio preached a sermon on the life, morals, and learning 
of Petrarch. In 1397, after Zabarella had become archpriest of Padua's 
cathedral, he made the ceremony an annual event. Using his previous 
experience in praising Saint Jerome in a public panegyric, Vergerio or- 
ganized his sermon by drawing primarily upon Petrarch's autobiographi- 
cal letter, the Epistola ad posteros (ca. 1361). To fill in those years of Pe- 
trarch's life that were not treated in the Epistola, Vergerio researched 
other Petrarchan sources.^'' In the final analysis, however, the entire 
structure of the sermon reflects Vergerio 's epistemological presupposi- 
tions and cultural priorities. 

Throughout the sermon, Vergerio communicated a sense of Pe- 
trarch's inner restlessness.^^ His youthful infatuation with Laura ended 
with her sudden death in the plague of 1348. Vergerio judged the affair 
in generous terms. Petrarch's libido was typical of adolescence, particu- 
larly in the strength of his passion [acerrimus). However, it was a love 
marked by admirable moral qualities, especially in Petrarch's dedication 
to Laura alone. Vergerio then underlined the importance of Petrarch's 
conversion from the study of civil law to the study of the humanities. 
With his father's encouragement, Petrarch had spent four years at the 

'^ Ernest H. Wilkins, Petrarch's Later Years, Publication 70 (Cambridge, Mass.: The 
Mediaeval Academy of America, 1959), 268, states that the "Letter to Posterity" {Sen. 18.1) 
was mainly wrinen before 1361. Petrarch did make subsequent insertions in the text from 
1370 until his death in 1374. For the ceremony in Padua, see Giuseppe Billanovich, Pefrarc** 
letterato I: Lo scrittoio di Petrarca, Raccolta di studi e testi 16 (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e 
Letteratura, 1947), 361-68. Because Vergerio drew so heavily upon the letter of Petrarch, 
some historians have rated his sermon of minimal historical importance; see, e.g., Carmela 
Marchente, Ricerche intomo al "De principibus Carrariensihus et gestis eorum liber" attribuito 
a Pier Paolo Vergerio seniore, Universita di Padova: Pubblicazioni della Facolta di lettere e 
filosofia 23 (Padua: CEDAM, 1946), 56-60. Marcello Aurigemma has offered a more bal- 
anced assessment; see Aurigemma, "II Sermo de vita Francisci Petrarchae di Pier Paolo Ver- 
gerio," in Giorgio Varanini and Palmiro Pinagli, eds., Studi filologici, letterari e storici in me- 
moria di Guido Favati, Medioevo e umanesimo 28-29 (Padua: Antenore, 1977), 1:33-34. 

'* Aurigemma, "D Sermo,'' 36-50. 


University of Montpellier and three at the University of Bologna in pur- 
suit of his law degree. Vergerio stressed that the charged encounter with 
his father, when Petrarch had tried to hide his literature books, mani- 
festly revealed his ambivalence toward a career as a lawyer. Eventually, 
he expressed his feelings to his father and, after his father's death, defini- 
tively abandoned law for his literary and scholarly pursuits. His sensi- 
tive personality revealed itself during the peregrinations of his humanist 
years. He lashed out in bitter invective against those who criticized his 
growing fame. He became more and more frustrated as he tried to com- 
plete the Africa, and he became upset in his later years if anyone merely 
mentioned the poem. Finally, Petrarch continued to benefit from the pa- 
tronage of wealthy rulers such as the Visconti and Carrara despite re- 
peated claims to contemn riches because they disturbed one's inner 

Vergerio showed his willingness to deflate the myth of Petrarch — one 
of the poet's most successful creations. Yet Vergerio also granted Pe- 
trarch the praise due to him. First, Petrarch combined a brilliant mind 
with love for recognition. Vergerio acknowledged that Petrarch had 
worked diligently to become Europe's leading intellectual, a position for 
which he possessed solid qualifications. Secondly, among Petrarch's aca- 
demic interests, his love for poetry and moral philosophy dominated. 
That led to a concomitant disgust with the bustle of cities like Avignon 
and a love for the rural solitude of the Vaucluse. As a humanist, Pe- 
trarch was most at home in the amenable surroundings of that lush val- 
ley. In fact, Vergerio claimed that, in that setting, Petrarch had con- 
ceived or begun or brought to completion his greatest writings. Late in 
life, however, Petrarch had begun to shift his interests toward sacred let- 
ters and to matters of history and eloquence.^' It is as though he had 
envisioned the turn that Vergerio sought to give to humanism. 

Vergerio subsequently appended the sermon as a preface to the edi- 
tion of the Africa. He also added the Argumenta, a metric summary of 
the content of each of the nine books of the poem itself.^° The original 
suggestion for such prefatory material stemmed from Salutati, and Ver- 
gerio accepted it. Yet Vergerio chose a different approach to the edition 
than that proposed by Salutati. Salutati had lobbied for a revised text 
that would take into account the marginal notes that Petrarch left and 

" Petrarcae vita, Solerti, ed., 294-96, 298-99. 

^° Smith, Epist, 204-6 n. 3; and G. KiWznovich, Petrarca letterato, 368. 

" Petrarch's Legacy 61 

Salutati himself expanded. Although Vergerio did see Petrarch's auto- 
graph and Salutati's notes, he rejected Salutati's proposed revisions. He 
convinced the Paduan heirs responsible for Petrarch's works that they 
should publish a diplomatic edition, which revealed that the poem had 
many incomplete lines and several large gaps in the narrative .^^ While 
reading an autograph copy of Petrarch's letters, Vergerio had found a 
postilla stating Petrarch's desire to have the Africa burned.^ Helping 
Petrarch to conform as closely as possible to his Virgilian model, Verge- 
rio issued the poem in its incomplete form. When the edition began to 
circulate in the second half of 1396, Vergerio received praise for having 
left the imperfections in the text.^ Consequently, Petrarch's reputation 
as an epic Latin poet, on which he had built a healthy portion of his 
fame, was somewhat diminished. There are thus parallels between the 
less-than-flattering impression of Petrarch that followed upon Vergerio 's 
edition and the rather melancholic scholar who emerged from Vergerio 's 

Vergerio's scrutiny of Petrarch's life and major Latin poem con- 
firmed his own priorities as a humanist and distinguished them from the 
older generations. Rather than the life of poet in solitude, Vergerio pre- 
ferred the political struggles of the orator in the city. Even so, from 
1394 to 1397, Vergerio may have readily identified with the restlessness 
of Petrarch's spirit. Once he had completed his studies of medicine, he 
began another degree in civil law. Like Petrarch, Vergerio seemed caught 
in a dilemma between humanist and legal studies. Legal studies offered 
the successful student greater social recognition and possible employ- 
ment in government. Yet Vergerio bridled at the literalism of exponents 
of jurisprudence; in his mind, legislation marked the beginning and not 
the end of a noble quest for equity. Like all texts, the code of law was 
not self-interpreting; in every instance human beings had to determine 
the proper application of the text.^'* A legalistic mentality poorly 

^' For example, Petrarch had never versified a lengthy account of the dream of Ennius 
in Book 9 of the epic. Vergerio published the preparatory version that Petrarch had written 
in prose. 

^ Fera, La revisione petrarchesca, 38-39. 

^ See Nicola Festa, ed., L'Africa, Edizione nazionale delle opere di Francesco Petrarca 
1 (Florence, 1926), lii-liii; Smith, Epist., 54n; Robey, "Republicanism," 33-34; and esp. Fera, 
Antichi editori, 88-94, 100-104. Niccolo Niccoli carried a copy of the edition from Padua 
to Florence to share it with the circle of humanists there. 

^* Epist, 130, 158, 160-61, 168-69, esp. 160-61: "Sed altae, mihi crede, et Veritas et 
aequitas magnisque latibulis abditae sunt; utque inter multas falsitates Veritas, ita et inter 
multas iniquitates quod iustiun est latet, neque est facile inter utrumque discemere. Saepe 


served the common good. As Vergerio began to see more clearly the il- 
lusion of absolute truth in areas such as law and politics, he intensified 
his dream of reviving political culture according to the tenets of classical 
rhetoric. That dream focused on the education of an individual entering 
public service. How could one best prepare that limited group of tal- 
ented individuals for the public responsibilities that their talents should 
earn? In letters to Ludovico Buzzacarini from 1396, Vergerio began to 
offer responses to that question. Those letters emphasized the impor- 
tance for the political elite of the study of moral philosophy, history, 
and rhetoric.^^ 

Vergerio 's restlessness also derived from vexing personal problems. 
He continued to find poverty a source of embarassment for himself and 
his family. In 1395, when his parents once again faced the prospect of 
flight from Capodistria, he resented his own dependence on the patron- 
age of others.^^ Those personal problems were compounded by the de- 
teriorating political situation in northern Italy. The storm clouds of re- 
newed war gathered ominously. In October of 1394, the patriarch of 
Aquileia, Jan Sobieslav of Moravia, was brutally assassinated. In analyz- 
ing that bloody turn of events in an area for which Vergerio felt great 
fondness, he argued that liberty had been extended too widely among 
those not used to its exercise. As factional rivalries exploded, liberty 
tragically lacked all restraint. It would be very difficult to resolve the 
problem because the various regional powers (the rival communes of 
Cividale and Udine in Friuli, Venice, Padua, the German king) all lob- 
bied on behalf of specific candidates. Such interest in affecting the choice 
of patriarch derived from the longstanding prestige of the see and its 
vital importance to contemporary politics as a buffer between Venice 
and the empire. Vergerio interpreted the pope's appointment of Antonio 
Caetani in January of 1395 as an effort to find a compromise candidate 
acceptable to the various internal factions and outside powers. He was 
not optimistic about the efficacy of the selection: the pope's effort to 
please all would probably satisfy no one.'^'' 

enim et / Veritas mendacii et turpitude honestatis faciem induit; itaque nil minim si diversi 
de eadem re summi viri adversa iudicia dent, cum et unus atque idem saepe diversis tempori- 
bus sententiam existimationemque mutet." 

^5 Ibid., 172-73, 176-79. 

^^ Ibid., 129-30, 142, esp. 142: "Senes, aegri, inopes laborant, nee est eis ulla neque in se 
neque in aliis spes; utque nihil ad summam desit, cogitur nunc pater sponsionem, quam pro 
alio subierat, ipse re implere et pecuniam quidem adeo gravem exolvere, ut sit ei aut career 
subeundus aut fuga paranda." 

'" Ibid., 94-95, 98, 101, 110-12, esp. 101: "Vides gentem illam in summa libertate natam 

Petrarch's Legacy 63 

The upheaval in the patriarchate coincided with a renewed offensive 
by Giangaleazzo Visconti against Francesco Novello in Padua. The 
Paduan despot's provocative refusal to pay the tribute owed to Gianga- 
leazzo alarmed his Florentine allies, who preferred a more cautious 
policy. More importantly, it antagonized his Venetian allies, who mo- 
mentarily abandoned the anti-Visconti League and offered financial sup- 
port and troops to Giangaleazzo. In the first months of 1395, the Vis- 
conti ruler threatened to invade Paduan territory. Vergerio actually got 
hold of a letter from Giangaleazzo to Padua's despot, and he copied the 
text and sent it to select friends in order to keep them abreast of devel- 
opments.^* The threat of war lessened toward the end of 1395, when 
the parties turned their attention to problems that had flared up in the 
Romagna.^^ Vergerio felt even greater discouragement when the plague 
returned during the summer of 1395. The disease had struck Istria with 
special ferocity, and Vergerio agonized over the danger to his parents, 
relatives, and closest friends. He urged Giovanni da Bologna, a doctor 
and intimate acquaintance, to abandon Muggia as soon as the govern- 
ment would permit him to do so. Vergerio assured Giovanni that he 
stood ready to leave Padua at the first sign of plague.^° 

Yet where would he go? His good friend, Santo de' Pellegrini, had 

solutissimis legibus vivere: quae res esse damno solet iis, qui uti nesciant libertate. Sentis gra- 
vibus inter se odiis non modo privates aut principes viros, sed et populos laborare, tarn qui- 
dem ex praesentibus causis quam damnis retro latis, ac ne minus quidem ex ea quae omnium 
malorum mater est, invidia. Accedit ad haec summa rerum omnium copia, quae laxivire 
animos faciat nee sinat suae ipsos salutis meminisse, et assuetudo quaedam iam factor bel- 
lorum. Cumque dudum pacatissima regio esse solebat, nuper et extemis et intemis bellis ex- 
ercitata est." See further Pio Paschini, "L'Istria patriarcale durante il govemo del patriarca 
Antonio Caetani (1395-1402)," Atti e memorie delta Societa istriana di archeologia e storia- 
patna 42 (1930): 95-99; Paschini, y4wtorjjo Caetani Cardinale Aquileiese (Rome, 1931), 8-22; 
and Paolo Stacul, // cardinale Pileo da Prata, Miscellanea 19 (Rome: Societa romana di storia 
patria, 1957), 239-43. 

^ Epist., 117, 119; and Ganguzza Billanovich, "Carrara, Francesco da, il Novello," DBI 

^ Epist, 152, 164-65. Astorre Manfredi had imprisoned Azzo d'Este after the latter's 
aborted coup against Niccolo HI d'Este in Ferrara. Because Manfredi refused to hand his 
prisoner over, war seemed imminent. 

^ Epist, 141-42, 154-57, 162-63. In a letter from March of 1396, Vergerio assured Aldo- 
vrandino da Ferrara that he would assist Aldovrandino in attaining vines from the hills 
above Padua that could be transplanted to his land near Ferrara. However, Vergerio recom- 
mended against such a transplanting, arguing that plants and human beings changed their na- 
ture upon moving from the climate and surroundings of their origins ("In quo nihil est 
quod miremur, cum videamus non modo plantas et sata, quae terrae coherent, sed et ani- 
malia quoque et homines loci mutatione variari et in aliam paene naturam converti" [ibid., 


worked for Jan Sobieslav, the assassinated patriarch of Aquileia. In 1395, 
Vergerio dedicated his efforts to assuring that Antonio Caetani, the new 
patriarch, retain Santo as his vicar of spiritual affairs. Vergerio personal- 
ly visited Caetani in Venice, carrying with him letters of recommenda- 
tion for Santo from Francesco Zabarella and Giovanni Ludovico Lam- 
bertazzi. A few months after Caetani acceded to the request, in May of 
1396, Santo drowned while crossing the Stella River. Vergerio grieved 
for a close friend, whose companionship he had cherished through the 
years; it had all ended too abruptly.^^ In the same years, Vergerio tried 
to exploit his connections at Venice. When Desiderato Lucio was ap- 
pointed chancellor, Vergerio quickly wrote in January of 1395 to congrat- 
ulate him.^^ The letter had a dual purpose: it commended a bourgeois 
republic like Venice that affords a political role to deserving intellectu- 
als, and it suggested that humanists like himself were deserving intel- 
lectuals. Vergerio contrasted the use that some princes made of their 
chancellors with that made by republics. The unnamed princes treated 
their chancellors as figureheads because they preferred to define policy 
without regard for sound reasoning. The depiction seems an ill-conceal- 
ed criticism of Francesco Novello for his treatment of Vergerio's men- 
tor, Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna. Republics, on the other hand, 
gave their chancellors much wider responsibilities. In effect, Vergerio 
suggested that republican chancellors functioned as the conscience of the 
government; he thus rendered homage to Salutati's role at Florence. 

The letter also contained a skeletal description of Vergerio's under- 
standing of Venetian political society, which was composed of a Senate, 

^' Epist, 119-26, 182-83. Vergerio had also met two Florentine priests in Caetani's 
retinue; see Paschini, Antonio Caetani, 22. 

'^ Epist., 102-6. Vergerio corresponded with many influential persons in Venice. There 
are letters to doctors (Giovanni da Bologna, Aldovrandino da Ferrara, Guglielmo da Raven- 
na, Niccolo Cessi, Niccolo Leonardi), to Venetians in the chancery (Donato Compostella 
and Desiderato Lucio, who was chancellor from 1395-96), and to patricians engaged in civic 
affairs (Remigio Soranzo, Pietro Miani, Zaccaria Trevisan, Carlo Zeno, Fantino Dandolo). 
Vergerio visited Venice in 1395 to meet with Antonio Caetani (123, 127-31) and again 
around Christmastime (161 n. 1, 163). Later in Rome, he worked for the Venetian pope, 
Gregory XII. Such contacts, together with a flurry of constitutional activity in Venice late 
in the Trecento, may explain the possible sources for Vergerio's technical information on 
Venice's constitution. For the Venetian contacts, see Percy Gothein, "Zaccaria Trevisan," 
Archivio veneto, ser. 5, 21 (1937): 2, 17; and Lino Lazzarini, "II patriziato veneziano e la cul- 
tura umanistica dell'ultimo Trecento," ^Irc^xwo veneto, ser. 5, 115 (1980): 197-99, 209-13, 
215-17. For comments on Vergerio's sources, see David Robey and John Law, "The Vene- 
tian Myth and the De republica veneta of Pier Paolo Vergerio," Rinascimento, n.s., 15 (1975): 

Petrarch's Legacy 65 

a doge, and the body of citizens united in their obedience to the gover- 
nors of the republic. Vergerio figured among the first intellectuals to 
suggest the success of Venice's "mixed constitution."'^ Over the course 
of the next seven years, he began to organize a treatise which would ex- 
plain the genius of the Venetian regime. Internal evidence suggests that 
portions of the work were written as late as 1402, and in its present state 
it only consists of notes that Vergerio intended to redact one day into 
final form.^ Even so, the treatise comprises a first geopolitical analysis 
of the Venetian Republic. Vergerio began his study with a long section 
on the location of the city, her topography, and the various advantages 
and disadvantages that accrued to Venice as a result.'^ In a second, less 
polished section, Vergerio intended to give a detailed description of the 
government crafted by the Venetians.'^ He wished to illustrate the 
functioning of Venice's mixed constitution through its various offices. 
The geographical portion of the treatise is dominated by strategic 
concerns, especially the skill of the Venetians in rendering their city safe 
from external attack. Vergerio described the advantages of the site as he 
saw them. Located in a lagoon off the mainland, the city could not be 
reached by missiles launched from shore nor could a large fleet of ships 
negotiate the narrow entrances and tides that gave access to the lagoon. 
Even if enemies reached the city, they would find themselves hopelessly 
entangled in the labyrinth of the city's canals. The shallow waters and 
tidal action of the lagoon's waters rendered ships of deep draft useless. 
The soft mud of the area excluded any overland attack. The Venetians 
had assured that their marking posts could be hidden when necessary ,''' 

•" Epist,, 105: "Hoc nimirum ita futurum ceru omnibus fides est, quod sapientissimus 
sit senatus, prudentissimus sit dux eius, pacatissima plebs et ad summum obsequens patribus, 
ac tu quoque is vir es qui consultor moderatorque iis accesseris." See further Quentin Skin- 
ner, The Renaissance, vol. 1 of The Foundations of Modem Political Thought (Cambridge: 
Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978), 139-42; and Edward Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice 
(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1981), 44. 

^ See Robey and Law, "The Venetian Myth," 3-35; Franco Gaeta, "Storiografia, 
coscienza nazionale e politica culturale nella Veneziadel Rinascimento," in Dalprimo Quat- 
trocento al Concilio di Trento, vol. 3 of Storia della cultura veneta (Vicenza: Pozza, 1980-81), 
6-11; Gaeta, "L'idea di Venezia," in Dalprimo Quattrocento al Concilio di Trento, vol. 3 of 
Storia della cultura veneta (Vicenza: Pozza, 1980-81), 570-72; Angelo Ventura, "Scrinori po- 
litici e scritture di govemo," in Dal primo Quattrocento al Concilio di Trento, vol. 3 of 
Storia della cultura veneta (Vicenza: Pozza, 1980-81), 536-37; and Robey, "Aspeni," 14-15. 

'* PPV, De repuhlica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 38-44, lines 1-170. 

^ Ibid., 44-49, lines 171-334. For the development of Venice's constitution during the 
thirteenth century, see Giuseppe Maranini, La costituzione di Venezia dalle origini alia serrata 
delMaggior Constglio (Venice, 1927), 159-312. 

'^ Denys Hay and John Law noted that the Venetians pulled up the posts during the 


and they had the foresight to build most of their bridges of wood, which 
could easily be destroyed during an attack. 

Those defensive measures had produced distinct advantages for 
Venice in the course of her history. Because Venice had never experi- 
enced barbarian invasions, her population and her economy had grown 
steadily. Venetian wealth was primarily a function of her strong defen- 
sive position. Moreover, the city had no surrounding countryside. While 
admitting liabilities regarding alimentary resources, Vergerio also saw ad- 
vantages since the countryside often bred internal rivalries. For example, 
exiles from Venice could not use the area nearby to launch a rebellion 
against the city. Without using the precise terminology, Vergerio inti- 
mated the absence of problems associated with the feudal nobility. In- 
stead he painted a map of Venetian commerce that covered the entire 
Mediterranean and reached into the Atlantic as far as Britain. Vergerio 
cited the key role played by the Arsenal, a state-run industry producing 
a fleet of military and commercial vessels, which exploited opportunities 
for worldwide trade.^^ 

Having artfully developed the advantages offered by location, the 
Venetians likewise crafted worthy instruments of government. Vergerio 
used the terminology of oligarchy to describe the regime, clearly admir- 
ing its restrictive character. In the letter to Petrarch on behalf of Cicero, 
he had used the same terminology to describe the new political realities 
of Rome under Octavian. For Vergerio the populus did not represent the 
total body of the citizens, but rather the politically active element. In 
the Venetian regime, the populus corresponded to the Great Council. 
One could not define the Venetian elite as a pure aristocracy of birth be- 
cause members of the Great Council were enrolled by law. For Verge- 
rio, the genius of the system lay in limiting political participation to the 
worthy and then restricting it even more. Vergerio saw the true power 
in Venice in the Venetian Senate, not in the Great Council.^' Vergerio 

War of Chioggia; see their Italy in the Age of the Renaissance, 1380-1530, Longman History 
of Italy (London and New York: Longman, 1989), 263. 

38 ppv, De repuhlica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 43, lines 137-42: "Navale ingens, 
quod Arsenale appellant, intra urbem est, undique muris conclusum, in quo longae naves et 
fiunt novae, et factae servantur, et tempestate adversa quassatae aut vetustate consumptae re- 
ficiuntur. In eo remi, ancorae, ceteraque impedimenta navalia, arma insuper et omnis generis 
instrumenta bellica usque in stuporem sunt et parantur assidue." 

'' Ibid., 44, lines 171-73: "et insuper his qui rogari consueverunt consilium centum ho- 
minum, quod et ab illis appellationem habet; dicitur enim Consilium Rogatorum, residetque 
in his et Maioris Consilii et totius urbis potestas." The Senate did not officially number one 
hundred members until 1413, and true power in the regime actually resided in the executive 

Petrarch's Legacy 67 

described the ritual of the SposaHzio to illustrate the nature of the 
regime. The doge and the members of the Great Council left on special 
vessels to conduct the rite of union with the sea, while the general popu- 
lace observed their actions.^ Venice had committed the matters requir- 
ing greatest trust to her best citizens. 

In reporting the apparatus of government, Vergerio saw structures 
designed to repress dissension and others to spur patriotic sentiments/^ 
Much of the description focused upon the legal apparatus, detailing the 
various courts and their respective jurisdictions, Vergerio claimed that 
firmness {constantia) constituted the greatest public virtue, and the Vene- 
tians possessed this virtue. They never mitigated a judicial sentence: 
criminals condemned to death were executed and exiles were never al- 
lowed to return. In the most sensitive matters, the Venetians created spe- 
cial councils that worked efficiently to assure state security. The Chief 
Ministers {Savii Grandt) replaced the Senate when matters dictated secret 
or lengthy deliberations. Acting as an internal secret police, the Council 
of Ten {Dieci) investigated the crimes of lese majesty and conspiracy, 
and its judgments allowed no appeal. When describing the function of 
the Cinque alia Pace, Vergerio emphasized their power to mete out rapid 
justice by imposing fines for factional brawling. Apparently, he was 
aware of the custom which granted that magistracy the power to exoner- 
ate or impose a symbolic fine upon anyone who had killed an out- 

councils above the Senate. However, Vergerio correctly attributed greater power to the Sen- 
ate than to the Great Council. On the matter of Vergerio's mistakes, see the comments of 
Robey in his introduction to the edition, 22. 

*° PPV, De republica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 44, lines 163-68: "soletque quot annis 
in Ascensione Domini, qui dies unus est eis omnium ex toto anno maxime Celebris, Dux 
eorum cum optimatibus atque omni nobilitate navigio in id ipsum opus comparato, foras 
portum aliquantisper evectus, in signum dominii, continuandaeque possessionis gratia, 
anulum manu detractum in altum iacere." Vergerio also praised the torturous path that 
eventually led one to become a procurator of San Marco and perhaps even the doge. That 
path appropriately involved a long period of testing to assure that a candidate was endowed 
with sufficient political prestige (auctoritas). 

*' See, e.g., ibid., 41, lines 76-82, where Vergerio identified two foci within the urban 
fabric. The Rialto functioned as the center of commercial activity. Venice generated her 
wealth through the involvement of her patricians in urban trading. The Piazza San Marco 
functioned as the stage for her political affairs. The Ducal Palace served as the city's citadel, 
the center of governmental coercion. Given the patriciate's success in controlling the citizen- 
ry, they could stroll through the piazza on holidays without fear of violent crime. 

^^ On the Cinque alia Pace, see PPV, De republica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 45, lines 
185-88; Gaetano Cozzi, "Authority and the Law in Renaissance Venice," in J. R. Hale, ed., 
Renaissance Venice (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1973), 294, 318-19; Gaeta, "Sto- 
riografia," 8 n. 16; and Guido Ruggiero, The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime arul Sexuality in 


Other constitutional measures were designed to foster support for 
the state rather than to punish criminal behavior. Chancery jobs were 
open to the select group of "original citizens" who were not members 
of the Great Council. The original citizens also had limited access to 
participation in the religious confraternities. Vergerio noted that only a 
fixed number might join any particular Scuola, however, lest it become 
a source of revolutionary agitation. In Vergerio's estimation, the regime 
wisely took care to eliminate potential sources of mass unrest: grain ad- 
ministrators assured sufficient food supplies while other magistrates 
guaranteed necessary services like collecting garbage and maintaining the 
navigability of canals. The judges of the citizens' formal petitions were 
appointed after a lengthy selection process and then given the widest lat- 
itude in judgment. Vergerio also noted the demagogic action of the re- 
gime in persecuting Jews for their usurious practices. Above all, the re- 
gime sought to foster the principal pursuit of all Venetians— commercial 

Vergerio mentioned several ways in which the regime worked to 
protect the Venetian economy. By the end of the fourteenth century, 
Vergerio observed, the government had limited access to investment in 
the public debt to Venetian citizens or those with a special indult. Enor- 
mous debts from the War of Chioggia (1378-1381) and the tax exemp- 
tion granted to those who invested in the debt after the war had driven 
Venice dangerously close to financial collapse. The government could 
only afford to make the twenty annual interest payments without touch- 
ing the principal of the loans. Venice's rulers therefore devised policies 
to avoid falling into severe debt once again. "^^ Foreigners who wished to 
trade in Venice had to work through a Venetian middleman. Private in- 
vestors were forbidden to arm ships. They had to use the protection of- 
fered by the state-sponsored fleets. The government had also created so- 
pracconsoli [supraconsules) who handled the cases of debtors who had fled 
the city. Vergerio saw the measure as a response to the inherent risks 
that capitalist commerce posed to investors and merchants. Merchants 

Renaissance Venice, Studies in the History of Sexuality 1 (New York and Oxford: Oxford 
Univ. Press, 1985), 4-5, 43. 

^^ PPV, De republica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 46, lines 230-37: "Multis etenim gra- 
vibusque bellis, quae longis retro temporibus aut intulit, aut passa est civitas, paene innume- 
rabile aes alienum contraxit. lussis civibus sing;ulo bello pro modo facultatum mutuum in 
aerarium conferre, pro illis nunc annuas mercedes vicenas exsolvit manente sorte, eaque im- 
pensa grandem complectitur summam, habenturque hi redditus immobilium loco. Itaque 
non nisi civibus, aut si quibus privilegio indultum est, licet emere aut possidere." 

Petrarch's Legacy 69 

faced the unpredictable dangers of the sea, where storms and piracy 
could quickly wipe out one's capital. Investors could easily hide liquid 
resources and fraudulently claim that they could not repay their debts. 
The Venetian magistrates had the right to condemn to permanent exile, 
even in contumaciam those found guilty of fraud.^ 

Despite errors on specific details, Vergerio demonstrated genuine in- 
sight into those factors that contributed to the stability of Venice's re- 
publican regime.^^ Venetian political society assumed a more hierarchi- 
cal and bureaucratic form after the War of Chioggia. The debts of that 
war stretched Venetian public financing to the limits. Vergerio displayed 
an especially keen eye when he directed his attention to the physical 
character of the city. In fact, his proven interest in writing descriptions 
of cities, as well as his desire to work for Venice's government, supply 
the most plausible motives for his notes. Piazza San Marco and the Rial- 
to comprised the two central topographical features, the Arsenal remain- 
ed the mainstay of Venice's seaborn economy, and the Sposalizio her 
most dramatic public ritual. Vergerio realized the problems caused by 
the silt which periodically blocked the city's port outlets. Though the 
Venetians had expended much money in search of a solution, they still 
had not resolved the problem.'*^ Finally, Vergerio offered unsolicited 
advice to the Venetian regime on the appropriate policy toward the Ital- 
ian mainland. He claimed that the Venetians would be much wiser to 
protect the empire already acquired along the shores of the Adriatic 
rather than to expand into the Italian hinterland. Any attempt to ex- 
pand on the terra firma would cause government expenses to grow well 
beyond its revenues.^^ 

** Ibid., 49, lines 310-27. 

^^ See Stanley Chojnacki, "Crime, Punishment and the Trecento Venetian State," in 
Lauro Martines, ed.. Violence and Civil Disorder in Italian Cities, 1200-1500, Center for 
Medieval and Renaissance Studies: Contributions 5 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of Cal- 
ifornia Press, 1972), 218-27; Robert Finlay, Politics m Renaissance Venice (New Brunswick, 
N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1980), 109-24; Muir, Civic Ritual, 119-34; Giorgio Bellavitis and 
Giandomenico Romanelli, Venezia, Le citta nella storia d'ltalia (Bari: Laterza, 1985), 53-66; 
Ruggiero, Boundaries of Eros, 86, 92, 127; and Dennis Romano, Patricians and "Popolani": 
The Social Foundations of the Venetian Renaissance State (Baltimore and London: Johns Hop- 
kins Univ. Press, 1987), 6-9, 141-58. 

^ PPV, De republica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 21 and 42, lines 105-14. Robey judici- 
ously comments on Vergerio's motives for writing the treatise, ibid., 31-32. In the course 
of his career, Vergerio had begun to write descriptions of the cities of Capodistria, Rome, 
and Florence. 

*^ Ibid., 43, lines 143-46 and 44, lines 162-63 (regarding the maintenance of the present 
empire). See also the letter to Lucio in 1395, Epist., 102-5. Despite discouraging a landed em- 


From the letter on behalf of Cicero to the treatise on Venice, Verge- 
rio had consistently defended the model of oligarchic government. From 
an ideological perspective, he had shown the pragmatism of an unem- 
ployed intellectual, willing to work for a prince or a republic and eager 
to show his appreciation for both systems. He saw his potential con- 
tribution as a humanist in using praise or censure to foster a spirit of 
common good among the political elite. Any degeneration toward fac- 
tionalism or a demagogic politics designed to enhance the ambitions of 
a tyrant must be opposed, even at the risk of one's life. Vergerio recog- 
nized that ethos had provided Roman orators with a powerful weapon. 
He hoped to wield it in order to foster a sense of merit within the 
political elite. Once the elite had consolidated their hold on power, they 
should assign political tasks on the basis of ability. Vergerio, however, 
had still not succeeded in proving his own worth to potential employ- 
ers. He had not obtained the patronage of the Carrara or a post in the 
Venetian chancery. When war erupted in the spring of 1397, Vergerio at 
last determined to leave Padua. 

pire, Vergerio supplied unwitting justification for it, when he theorized that the word 
Venetia derived from the Roman "Regio Venetiae," which had once extended as far as Ber- 
gamo; see PPV, De republica veneta, Robey and Law, eds., 39, lines 18-21. 


The Power of the Visible 

Anticipating a difficult confrontation with the army of Giangaleazzo 
Visconti, his opponents had sought to strengthen their position. In 
September of 1396, Florence enlisted the support of King Charles VI of 
France. Subsequently, Francesco Novello sealed marriage alliances with 
the rulers of other buffer states in northeastern Italy. His daughter Gigli- 
ola da Carrara married Niccolo III d'Este of Ferrara in June of 1397. 
One month later, Francesco's son, Francesco III, married Alda Gonzaga, 
daughter of the marchese of Mantua. The weddings occurred as Gianga- 
leazzo's troops advanced steadily against Francesco Gonzaga. After di- 
verting the Mincio River from its normal course, Giangaleazzo 's army 
captured Borgoforte on 15 July 1397. Under the command of Carlo 
Malatesta from Rimini, the forces of the anti- Visconti coalition rallied to 
stop that advance. 

On 28 August 1397, those forces defeated the Visconti army at the 
battle of Governolo sul Po, approximately eleven miles south of Man- 
tua. Ultimate victory came only with Venetian assistance. By May of 
1398, Venice engineered a truce with Milan, which assured the safety of 
Padua, Ferrara, and Mantua. For the time being, those buffer states sepa- 
rated Milan and Venice. However, Venice increasingly dictated their for- 
eign policy.^ After the victory at Governolo, Carlo Malatesta led his 

' Gatari, Cronaca carrarese, RIS, n.s., 16.1:439, 448, 453-55; Philip J. Jones, The MalatesU 
of Rimini and the Papal State (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), 
112-15; and M. Chiara Ganguzza Billanovich, "Carrara, Francesco da, il Novello," DBI 
20:658. Governolo is a hamlet within the Commune of Roncoferraro and is located on the 
Mincio River a little over a mile from the Mincio's confluence with the Po River. 


army to Mantua, where he received the accolades of the city he had 
saved. In September of 1397, while residing in Bologna, Pierpaolo Ver- 
gerio received terse word of a shocking action on the part of the alli- 
ance's military commander, "After Carlo Malatesta had defeated the 
enemy and driven them off in flight, in order that he might also enjoy 
victory over the poets, to whom he is most hostile, he overturned the 
statue, which had stood for many centuries as a memorial to Virgil."^ 
The episode involving Virgil's statue is a somewhat puzzling chapter 
in the history of Italian humanism. Three letters preserve the reactions 
of contemporary scholars to the act and its implications. Vergerio wrote 
the first letter, which bears a date of 18 September 1397. He addressed 
it to Ludovico degli Alidosi. Alidosi was papal vicar of the city of Imola 
in the Romagna, in which capacity he functioned as de facto despot. In 
Vergerio's mind, he was also a potential patron, "unique among princes 
because he alone cherishes the erudite and particularly the orators and 
poets. "^ The second letter is dated 25 October 1397 but offers no cer- 
tain evidence of the identity of its author or recipient. Most manuscripts 
preserve a text addressed to a "Personus," who is once called "Peregri- 
nus." No individual has been found who fits the description, and the 
use of Personus has led to sound suspicions that the letter may be an 
exercise in composition. Though the letter has been attributed to 
Leonardo Bruni or even to Vergerio, the best evidence militates against 
both of those attributions.'* Six months later (23 April 1398), Coluccio 
Salutati wrote to Pellegrino Zambeccari to give his reaction to news of 
the destruction of the statue and to offer some personal advice to his 
friend.^ The two men were chancellors of Florence and Bologna respec- 
tively, and, as such, key actors in the anti-Visconti alliance. The delicate 
character of the situation, in which the alliance's military commander 
had issued a controversial order, may explain why Salutati cautiously de- 

^ Epist., 195: "Karolus de Malatestis, victis fugatisque apud Mantuam hostibus, ut de 
poetis qucxjue triumpharet, quibus est hostis infestissimus, statuam, quae in honorem Virgilii 
multis retro saeculis steterat, evertit." 

' Epist, 189-202. I am aware of forty-three manuscripts which contain the invective (£/>. 
81 in Smith's edition). Full data are supplied in the finding-list of Vergerio's works forth- 
coming in my edition of the Jerome panegyrics for MRTS. 

^ David Robey, "Virgil's Statue at Mantua and the Defence of Poetry: An Unpublished 
Letter of 1397," Rinascimento, n.s., 9 (1969): 183-89. 

^ Coluccio Salutati, Epistolario, Francesco Novati, ed. (Rome, 1891-1911), 3:285-308. 
Ronald Witt supplies an English translation in Benjamin G. Kohl and Ronald G. Witt, The 
Earthly Republic: Italian Humanists on Government and Society (Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn- 
sylvania Press, 1978), 94-114. 

The Power of the Visible 73 

layed taking a public stance. Most scholars today do not question the 
historicity of the episode.^ 

Vergerio reacted well before the other intellectuals, and his invective 
became one of the most popular letters that he ever wrote. It served as 
a manifesto for his maturing convictions about the value of humanist 
studies. As such, it has a distinctly original message. Unlike the other 
two authors, Vergerio did not defend poetry alone. Rather, right from 
the opening lines of his invective, he defended the value of poetry and 
oratory? That is, Vergerio offered a comprehensive defense of humanist 
studies after a renowned political figure had shown contempt for those 
studies. Among active humanists, only Vergerio conceived of the prob- 
lem in terms of rhetorical culture. 

In form and in content, the letter reveals the development of Verge- 
rio's approach to humanist studies. He composed the letter as a prosecu- 
torial speech, bringing Carlo Malatesta before the tribunal of learned 
opinion. In a letter one year earlier, Vergerio had lamented the absence 
of oratory in the contemporary judicial process. Legal procedures were 
dominated by affidavits taken by notaries to which were appended lists 
of relevant statutes. The study and practice of law lacked a proper basis 
in rhetoric. Vergerio subordinated the technical aspects of the trial to 
the composition of an oration.^ Lawyers in antiquity had received train- 

' Georg Voigt challenged the historicity of the incident in Die Wiederbelebung des clas- 
sischen Alterthums, oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humanismus, 3d ed. prepared by Max 
Lehnerdt (Berlin, 1893), 1:572-75. Historians who accept the historicity of the episode in- 
clude Francesco Novati, Epistolario di Salutati, 3:285-87 n. 1; Vladimiro Zabughin, Virgilio 
nel Rinascimento italiano da Dante a Torquato Tasso: Fortuna, studi, imitazioni, traduzioni e 
parodie, iconografia (Bologna, 1921-23), 1:112-13; Leonardo Smith, EpisL, 189-90 n. 1; 
Berthold Louis Ullman, The Humanism of Coluccio Salutati, Medioevo e umanesimo 4 
(Padua: Antenore, 1963), 55-58; Jones, Malatesta of Rimini, 128-29; and Robey, "Virgil's 
Statue," 183. The most recent discussion of the episode emphasizes the defense of poetry; 
see Alan Fisher, "Three Meditations on the Destruction of Vergil's Statue: The Early Hu- 
manist Theory of Poetry," Renaissance Quarterly 40 (1987): 607-35. 

' EpisL, 189 ("cum omnis generis erudites turn maxime oratores et poetas colis"), 193 
("at vero indixisse bellum vatibus, oratoribus maledicere, damnare scriptores"), 197-98 
("haec est de poetis et de oratoribus sententia. Non est mihi animus nunc mon-/strare, quae 
sit poeticae vis aut oratoriae facultas"), and 202 ("poetas oratoresque, si non dicit honore 
dignos, at saltem non insectetur infamia"). As early as 1395, Vergerio used the expression 
orator etpoeta to describe a humanist {Epist, 143). The terminology was common until the 
word humanista was coined later in the Quattrocento. See Paul Oskar Kristeller, Renaissance 
Thought and Its Sources, Michael Mooney, ed. (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1979), 97- 
98, 242-43, 251; and John M. McManamon, Funeral Oratory and the Cultural Ideals of 
Italian Humanism (Chapel Hill, N.C., and London: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1989), 
135-36. Nicholas Mann and George Holmes kindly reminded me of Petrarch's affirmation 
that "orators and poets are not to be found outside of Italy" {Sen. 9.1). 

' EpisL, 179: "Sed hie mos apud nostros plane iam in desuetudinem concessit quando 


ing in stasis theory, through which the various issues that might be con- 
tested in any trial were grouped under general headings of deed, motive, 
and jurisdiction of the court. Vergerio therefore divided his letter into 
treatment of the deed {de facto) and the motive behind it {de causa). He 
attempted to establish that Carlo Malatesta had ordered the statue 
knocked from its pedestal and that he had acted out of false piety.' In 
form, the letter displays the originality of Vergerio's humanism. He 
knew the rhetorical techniques of antiquity, and he found ways to em- 
ploy them in an oratorical context. The content of the letter is as origi- 
nal as the form. Not satisfied with a simple defense of poetry, Vergerio 
argued for the value of the entire humanist enterprise. He applauded an- 
cient authors who had conserved the great deeds of their era in written 
records: those writings comprised a collective memory of antiquity. Ver- 
gerio proceeded to list the names of Greek and Roman heroes, whom he 
knew thanks to the work of ancient poets and historians. Consistent 
with his political ideals, Vergerio closed the list with the champions of 
the Roman Republic. ^° 

Nowhere is Vergerio's comprehensive purpose more evident than in 
his combined defense of Cicero together with Virgil. ^^ Vergerio first 
mentioned Cicero when he speculated that Malatesta may have taken in- 
direct inspiration from the emperor Augustus. While Augustus had 
hated Cicero when the orator was still alive, Malatesta had erupted in 
hatred for Virgil well after the poet's death. It was fortunate for Cicero 
that none of the statues erected to honor him in ancient times were 
standing late in the fourteenth century. Further into the letter, Vergerio 
quoted the condottiere as contemptuously remarking that Virgil was 
nothing more than a stage actor {histrio) and Cicero a shyster (causidicus) 
and jester {nugator). Vergerio turned the charges against Cicero against 
Malatesta himself. He argued that Cicero could fairly be characterized as 
a lawyer and a humorist, without the pejorative connotations of Mala- 
testa's terminology. With proven integrity, Cicero had prosecuted or 
defended a number of important citizens. In his spare time he had 

causas agitent, a quibus alienissima est orandi facultas. Conscriptis namque tabellis, et con- 
quisitis, ut quisque potuit, legibus, non orationibus, controversiae in foro diiudicantur." 

' Ibid., 196. On stasis theory in antiquity, see George Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and 
Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modem Times (Chapel Hill, N.C.: 
Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1980), 88, 92-95. 

'° Epist., 192-93. 

" Ibid., 194-95, 198-99. 

The Power of the Visible 75 

collected a volume of humorous anecdotes. Vergerio placed those 
specific activities within the context of Cicero's fundamental commit- 
ments. The Roman orator had distinguished himself as a moral philoso- 
pher and as a civic activist. Neither of the other two letters alluded to 
Malatesta's condemning Cicero as well as Virgil. By defending Cicero, 
Vergerio gave expression to some of his deepest convictions. In wres- 
tling with the legacy of Petrarch, Vergerio had realized that he could 
never be satisfied with a purely poetic style of humanism. He wished to 
recover the political dimension of the rhetorical culture of antiquity, 
defined by the activities of the orator. For Vergerio, humanists could be 
orators and poets, but they had to be orators. 

Vergerio 's letter reflects in a second way the peculiar evolution of his 
commitment to humanist studies. It restates his belief in the power of 
images to persuade human beings. Among the three authors who re- 
sponded to Malatesta's action, only Vergerio emphasized the importance 
of the statue as a visible memorial. During his years in Padua, Vergerio 
had already manifested a sense of the political message that buildings and 
rituals in a city might convey. He envisioned the layout of a city as 
though it were the outline of an oration: it needed embellishment. Virgil 
made Mantua famous and not vice versa. The city had appropriately 
erected his statue to remind citizens of their illustrious ancestor and to 
spur them to great accomplishments. ^^ 

In discussing the importance of monuments, Vergerio ridiculed the pur- 
portedly pious motives which had inspired Carlo Malatesta to tear down 
the statue. Malatesta claimed that it was right to erect statues to the saints 
but not to pagan poets. Vergerio conceded the suitability of monuments to 
the saints, provided that by saints one meant individuals of proven ethos 
{meritum vitae virtutumque doctrina). Vergerio reminded his readers that 
images of illustrious- men had motivated ancient heroes like Scipio to per- 
form great deeds. He categorically rejected the proposition that poets, espe- 
cially the pagan poets, did not deserve such monuments. Illustrious poets 
and gifted visual artists like the sculptor Phidias deserved such memorializa- 
tion.^^ To eliminate the pagans a priori seemed to Vergerio a further mani- 

'^ Ibid., 195-96; and Fisher, "Three Meditations," 623-27. See further Michael Baxan- 
dall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pic- 
torial Style (2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 18-20, 40-41, 55-58, 
64-66, 103; and Margaret L. King, The Death of the Child Valerio Marcello (Chicago and Lon- 
don: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994), 13-14. 

'^ Epist., 196: "Non sum qui negem et statuas et honorem Sanctis deberi, qui merito 
vitae virtutumque doctrina sunt digni ut celebrentur in terris et in caelis beatam sempiter- 


festation of the religious bigotry that had erupted in the last years of the 
fourteenth century. Bands of fanatical Christians had damaged frescoes 
because they depicted Jews and Roman soldiers participating in the events 
that ended in the crucifixion of Jesus. 

Malatesta's reactionary zealotry threatened to unleash a wave of icon- 
oclasm against the monuments of pagan antiquity and a priceless portion 
of the cultural patrimony of Christianity. "Therefore, representations of 
Pharaoh and Pilate and Herod, and likewise those of evil demons which 
possess a measure of dreadfulness proportionate to the intention of their 
painters, will have to be removed from churches and ripped off their 
walls. Consequently, the city of Rome, where there are so many monu- 
ments from antiquity and from primitive Christianity, will experience 
great destruction. "^"^ Vergerio juxtaposed the intolerant bigotry of Mala- 
testa the Catholic to the tolerant eclecticism of Cicero the pagan. He 
hammered home his point by sarcastically observing that one could jus- 
tify such conduct if perhaps one found that a life bent on tearing down 
helped to build up human society. Vergerio preferred a committed life 
of faith, which sought to build by living virtuously. 

namque vitam agant; poetis vero hisque illustribus non video cur constltui non possint. Si 
enim munus tale in eorum memoriam fieri solet, qui illustres et in vita praestantes fuerint, 
quid vetat ne vatibus quoque, si qui praeter ceteros insignes sint, talium rerum monumenta 
debeantur? Nam et posteris, cum haec vident, magna sunt incitamenta animorum, ingeniis- 
que ad virtutem et vitae gloriam ingens calcar ex his additur; quale solebat dicere Scipio, 
cum illustrium virorum imagines cerneret, magnopere se ad eorum imitationem concitari. 
Cumque hoc poetis suo quasi iure concedam, non interdico tamen ceteris, qui aliquo recto 
studio aut egregio artificio insignes fuerunt; neque enim, ut alios sileam, redarguendus is 
mihi videtur, qui, cum Palladem finxisset, in eius se aegide medium sculpsit." Vergerio drew 
the reference to Scipio from Sallust lug. 4.5. Phidias sculpted his portrait on the Athena Par- 
thenos (see Smith, Epist, 196 n. 3, who cites Cicero Tusc. 1.15.34 and Valerius Maximus Fact, 
etdict. mem. 8.14.ext.6). See also David Robey, "Aspetti dell'umanesimovergeriano," in Vit- 
tore Branca and Sante Graciotti, eds., L'umanesimo in Istria, Civilta veneziana: Studi 38 
(Florence: Olschki, 1983), 13-14. 

'^ Epist., 197: "Illud vero praeterire non possum, quod Virgilius, quia gentilis fuerit, in- 
dignus sit statua; simileque hoc mihi videtur eorum rationi, qui, cum in templis ludaeorum 
gentiliumque imagines vident Christum aut verberantium aut crucifigentium, oculos illis, ut 
quaeque iratior videtur, eruunt, truculentasque lictorum facies ex multa religione pietateque 
deformant, quasi quidem in delendis imaginibus ac non magis in tollendis peccatis compo- 
nendisque virtutibus meritum vitae consistat. lam ergo et Pharaonis imagines et Pilati atque 
Herodis, itemque malorum demonum, quas tam horribiles quam pictoribus placet cernimus, 
templis avellendae parietibusque delendae erunt; Roma magnam ruinam sentiat oportet, in 
qua sunt tot vetustatis, tot priscae religionis monumenta." Cf. Michael Baxandall, Giotto and 
the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial Composi- 
tion 1350-1450, Oxford- Warburg Studies 6 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), 41-43; and Samuel 
Y. Edgerton, Pictures and Punishment: Art and Criminal Prosecution during the Florentine 
Renaissance (Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), 91-92. 

The Power of the Visible 77^ 

Vergerio cited examples from antiquity to show the importance of 
images and the use made of them by civic rulers. When a society wished 
to dramatize its censure of an individual's immoral behavior, it might 
properly resort to the destruction of images. The Romans had justly 
shattered statues of Domitian and deleted his name from inscriptions be- 
cause the man had proven himself a savage beast. Likewise, Vergerio's 
contemporaries tried to wipe away any visible trace of the existence of 
executed criminals. However, Carlo Malatesta could not justify such 
censure in the case of Virgil, for Virgil had lived a moral life.^^ Verge- 
rio also warned Malatesta of the potentially self-defeating character of 
his deed. He reminded the condottiere of the anonymous ancient ruler 
who had sought to become famous by destroying the temple of Diana 
at Ephesus. No better testimony existed for that ruler's stupidity than 
the fact that no one remembered his name but all remembered his in- 
famous deed,^^ 

Carlo Malatesta's quest for fame had led him to attack the group of 
scholars who might make him famous. 

It is one thing to have ignored writers, given that many [princes] 
are endowed with a lofty spirit, and thus disdain praises and 
fame, satisfying themselves with the consciousness of great ac- 
complishments. It is altogether another thing to have declared 
war on the poets, to censure the orators, to condemn the writers. 
If someone from the common crowd were of this opinion, I 
would endure it; however, in a prince trained in the good arts, to 
whom glory and virtue are of value, I cannot approve those 

Vergerio meant to teach Ludovico degli Alidosi the proper conduct for 
a prince by censuring the conduct of Malatesta. He hoped that Ludovico 
would show his appreciation for the orators and poets through generous 

Vergerio's defense of Virgil and his poetry are more traditional. He 

'* Epist, 193-94. 

'* Ibid., 191-92. 

'^ Ibid., 193: "Et est fortasse aliquid neglexisse scriptores, ut sunt plerique tam magno 
elatoque animo praediti, qui laudes famamque con[con]temnant, bene gestarum rerum con- 
scientia sola contenti; at vero indixisse bellum valibus, oratoribus maledicere, damnare scri- 
ptores, si quis ex vulgo haec ita sentiret, paterer quidem, quasi illi cum laude et litteris nihil 
commune sit; in principe vero bonis artibus imbuto, cui sit gloria et virtus in pretio, non 
possum isu probare." 


rejected the charge made by Carlo Malatesta that poets were nothing 
more than actors. Vergerio found the claim rather ironic from a prince 
who maintained a troupe of entertainers at his court. Carlo wasted his 
money in supporting clowns. Other princes, ancient and modern, had 
had the good sense to patronize poets. Vergerio assembled a list of the 
enlightened modern princes who had supported Petrarch during his 
career and included among them Carlo's relative, Pandolfo Malatesta. 
Vergerio further rejected any effort by Carlo to justify his action by ap- 
peal to the teaching of Plato. Plato's ban on poets had extended only to 
those comic poets who produced obscene works. He did not have in 
mind the heroic poets who celebrated virtue and censured vice.^* 

The other two authors restricted their defense to Carlo's charges 
against the poets. The anonymous letter on the episode first dealt with 
Carlo's characterization of the poets as actors. That charge was not true 
by definition: according to Boccaccio, the source for much of the 
author's argument, poets are divinely inspired. Lest there be further 
doubt, one need only note the difference in terms of what the poets pro- 
duce {effectus) and in terms of their lives. Unlike actors, poets supply 
moral examples and stimulate creative thinking by hiding truth beneath 
a veil of poetic imagery. Poets like Petrarch lived an upstanding life. 
Malatesta had no right to ban them from the commonwealth, though 
many poets freely chose a life of solitude far from the distractions of the 
city.^' The anonymous author also dealt with the claim that the poets 
lied. He attributed that position to Malatesta as well and used his de- 
fense to attack the literalism of interpreters, who treated myths as 
though they were historical accounts. Liars seek to deceive; poets seek 
to encourage the search for a hidden truth. The Apocalypse of Saint 
John recounted occurrences that were incredible in order to teach a 
deeper theological truth.^° 

Salutati's letter differs from the other two in its subtlety and its 
broader concerns, which go beyond the affair of the statue. Because Salu- 
tati claimed to know of the statue's destruction only from Pellegrino 
Zambeccari's report, he discussed whether the news seemed credible. Sa- 
lutati also took up the matter of a romantic relationship from which 
Zambeccari sought to extricate himself. Ingeniously, the Florentine 

'« Ibid., 199-202. 

" Robey, "Virgil's Statue," 192-99. 

^ Ibid., 199-202. 

The Power of the Visible 79 

chancellor managed to weave the two disparate threads together. In dis- 
cussing the destruction of the statue, he framed his remarks with the ob- 
servation that he could not believe that Carlo Malatesta was capable of 
such an act. For Salutati, it was unthinkable that a prince so devoted to 
the study of divine letters would destroy a statue of Virgil. ^^ In much 
the same fashion as Vergerio, Salutati wished to undermine any religious 
justification for the deed. A believer who appreciated the message of 
Scripture would not destroy a statue of Virgil. 

If Malatesta argued that poets are really actors, Salutati wondered on 
what basis he could make such a comparison. It could certainly not be 
in terms of gestures, of which the poets made no use. Perhaps it had to 
do with the strong element of praise in both of their activities. Salutati 
claimed, however, that praise did not distort the truth. If it was accorded 
to deserving individuals, then it proved to be useful in rewarding moral 
behavior. If it was exaggerated beyond an individual's genuine worth, 
then one should recognize the hyperbole as a call to reform. Undue 
praise put the subject in a negative light and thereby constituted subtle 
criticism. Salutati had opened his missive with effusive praise for Carlo 
Malatesta and now provided the prince with a hermeneutical key. Fi- 
nally, no one could doubt the value of poetry, especially for a believer. 
The greatest Christian authors had cited poetic works, and a Christian 
classic such as Augustine's City of God was incomprehensible without a 
knowledge of ancient poetry. 

Like the anonymous author, Salutati also dealt with the charge that 
poets lie. As the anonymous author had done, Salutati pointed to the 
symbolic material in Scripture to defend the use of symbolism in poetry. 
Metaphoric verse challenged the reader to dig out truths buried in fic- 
tions.^ In the second half of his letter, Salutati made recommendations 
regarding the personal problems which Pellegrino had shared with him. 
First of all, Zambeccari had anxieties about an affair he was carrying on 
with a woman named Giovanna. Secondly, the Bolognese chancellor had 
revealed his desire to leave public life for a life of contemplation in an 
oratory which he had recently endowed. Zambeccari apparently con- 
ceived the flight to a hermitage as a way to end his affair with Giovan- 
na.^^ Salutati tried to strengthen his friend's resolve to break off the 

^' Colucclo Salutati, Epistolano, Novati, ed., 3:285-91, 293-95. 
^ Ibid., 3:291-93. 
" Ibid., 3:295-308. 


affair. In presenting his case, Salutati quoted Virgil six different times, re- 
emphasizing by example the moral tenor of Virgil's poetry. As for the 
proposed turn to a contemplative life, Salutati challenged Pellegrino's 
basic reasoning. The contemplative life admittedly brought one closer to 
God, but one could carry on an active life of service to the Bolognese 
commonwealth and thereby serve God. The public square should be Pel- 
legrino's hermitage; he would please God by ending his affair and con- 
tinuing as chancellor. 

All three authors, then, rejected Carlo Malatesta's effort to denigrate 
poets by equating them with actors. Vergerio and Salutati used their let- 
ters to defend the appropriate contribution that humanists made to soci- 
ety. Vergerio alone, however, added a defense of Cicero and oratory, 
and he emphasized the inspirational power of a monument erected to 
honor a person of integrity. For him and for many intellectuals of the 
Renaissance, sight comprised the most powerful of human senses.^^ 
Heavenly reward, in fact, consisted of a blessed type of vision. More- 
over, Vergerio conceived of the mind as having eyes which a humanist 
should use to the fullest. "What is more appropriate for a man involved 
in political activity than to see and commit to memory and review the 
affairs of a past era?"^^ The most convincing truth was a truth that one 
lived, and the best oratory engendered sights of ethical behavior. 

Vergerio 's letter on the statue of Virgil suggests a new way to inter- 
pret a famous bit of advice which he gave to Ludovico Buzzacarini in 
1396. Vergerio recommended that Buzzacarini take Cicero as his sole 
model for persuasive oratory, and, in so doing, he used a comparison to 
painters of his day. "Although they diligently observe quality paintings 
executed by others, nevertheless they follow the models of Giotto 
alone." Modern commentators such as Michael Baxandall have puzzled 
over that comment .^^ Apprentice painters would normally take their 

^^ See, for example, Vergerio's comments to Salutati in a letter of 1391 {Epist, 62): "Si 
postremo et id umquam fortuna concederet, quod apud te viverem, cuius monitis et exem- 
plo vitae, cernentibus oculis, cottidie memet maior meliorque fierem! Sentio plane quantum 
in virtute profecerim, te auctore, per id pauculum temporis quo et videre et audire te licuit, 
cum ad praecepta tua velut ad abundantissimum fontem sitibundus venirem." Cf. ibid., 15, 
82, 88-89, 138; and Eugenio Garin, "Ritratto di Leonardo Bruni Aretino," Atti e memorie 
della Accademia Petrarca di lettere, arti e scienze, n.s., 40 (1970-72): 2-3, who discusses 
Bruni's decision to pursue humanist studies after seeing a portrait of Petrarch. 

^^ Epist., 172: "Quid enim magis ad consilia vitae rationesque attinet quam praeteriti 
temporis et gestarum rerum notitia? Aut quid communi viro magis convenit quam longaevae 
res aetatis et cernere et memorare et recensere iucunde?" 

^* Epist., 177-78; and Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators, 43-44. For the Ciceronian con- 

The Power of the Visible 81 

master as the standard for excellence. Insofar as Vergerio knew the 
world of Paduan painters, he may have felt that, in questions of style, 
they esteemed Giotto more than their own master. Or, perhaps influ- 
enced by his Florentine connections, Vergerio turned to Giotto when he 
needed the name of a renowned painter. 

How does the letter on the statue affect our understanding of Verge- 
rio 's counsel? One must first remember that Vergerio offered his advice 
in a letter on the principles of rhetorical education useful for one seek- 
ing a career in public service. In effect he suggested that humanists must 
fully appropriate classical standards for oratory if they were to have a 
radical impact upon the world of politics. Giotto had broken with the 
conventions of painting in his day and created a new style based upon 
his understanding of classical norms. Though popular in Padua, Giotto 
nonetheless remained a controversial figure. He represented the avant 
garde. By establishing Cicero as the sole model for oratory, Vergerio 
proposed a radical new approach to education and politics in his day. 
He sought to reestablish the orator at the center of public life. Verge- 
rio's affirmation represents the first salvo in the Ciceronian controver- 
sies of the Renaissance. The full significance of that affirmation emerges 
only in its historical context. Vergerio was not engaging in a debate 
about style alone but tracing a position on the social role of a humanist 
intellectual. He proposed to make Cicero the sole norm for public 
speechmaking at a moment when no fashionable speaker followed Cice- 
ronian norms. Like the artists of the Trecento, humanists should revolu- 
tionize the style and substance of their medium. Through public speech- 
es, they must work to create vivid images of virtue. Vergerio urged 
humanists to help their world see clearly once again. 

The revolutionary endeavors of the humanists of Vergerio 's genera- 
tion appealed to the visual sense. Poggio Bracciolini and Niccolo Niccoli 
transformed the handwriting and book production of the day. In their 
view, Gothic script was too difficult to read. They sought to create "a 
clearer and more legible hand" and adopted strict standards according to 
what they assumed were exemplars of the handwriting of classical times. 
At the same time they changed the entire appearance of the book. The 

troversies, see Remigio Sabbadini, Storia del ciceronianismo e di altre questioni letterarie 
nell'eta delta rinascenza (Turin, 1885), 5-18; and John F. D'Amico, Renaissance Humanism 
in Papal Rome: Humanists and Churchmen on the Eve of the Reformation, Studies in Histori- 
cal and Political Science, ser. 101, no. 1 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1983), 123- 


script, the materials on which they wrote, the way in which they ruled 
and laid out the page, and the decoration that they added all contributed 
to a product that in their estimation was more pleasing and more use- 
ful. ^^ Thus, the changes proposed by humanists were dictated by philo- 
logical and by graphic needs, and they were based upon rigid "classical" 
norms. In the area of rhetoric, Vergerio imagined himself as an artist 
who worked through the medium of words to create vivid images of 

Vergerio deepened his conviction about the power of the visible 
when he visited the city of Rome early in 1398. He accompanied Fran- 
cesco Zabarella, whom Francesco Novello had sent as an ambassador to 
discuss matters of mutual concern with Pope Boniface IX (1389-1404). 
In all likelihood, Zabarella went to dissuade the pope from following the 
recommendations of the emperor Wenceslaus for ending the Great 
Western Schism. Wenceslaus had drafted a plan which called for the 
popes in Rome and Avignon to resign. The emperor had already enlist- 
ed the support of King Charles VI of France. Francesco Novello and his 
allies in the anti-Visconti coalition mistrusted Wenceslaus because he had 
sold the title of duke to Giangaleazzo Visconti in 1395. Paduan diploma- 
cy worked to have the pope depose Wenceslaus in favor of his rival, Ru- 
pert of the Palatinate. While in Rome, Zabarella delivered an oration 
which argued for the absolute authority of the pope, to whom even the 
emperor was subject. Vergerio felt that Zabarella was held in high es- 
teem in Rome and would soon receive an ecclesiastical promotion.^* 

The visit was marked by a progression of discouraging events. Even 
before reaching the city, Vergerio had a foretaste of things to come. 

^' See E. H. Gombrich, "From the Revival of Letters to the Reform of the Arts: Nic- 
colo Niccoli and Filippo Brunelleschi," The Heritage ofApelles: Studies in the Art of the Ren- 
aissance (Oxford: Phaidon, 1976), 72-7&; Albinia de la Mare, The Handwriting of Italian Hu- 
manists (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), 1:49-50, 52-53; de la Mare, "Humanistic Script: 
The First Ten Years," in Fritz Krafft and Dieter Wuttke, eds.. Das Verhaltnis der Human- 
isten zum Buch, Kommission fiir Humanismusforschung, Mitteilung 4 (Boppard: H. Boldt, 
1977), 89-93; and esp. de la Mare, "New Research on Humanistic Scribes in Florence," in 
Annarosa Garzelli, Miniatura fiorentina del Rinascimento 1440-1525: Un primo censimento, 
Inventari e cataloghi toscani 18 (Scandicci [Florence]: La Nuova Italia, 1985), 1:396. 

^* Epist., 208: "maiorumque sibi spem effecit." On the embassy, see Smith, ibid., 206-7 
n. 1; Terenzio Sartore, "Un discorso inedito di Francesco Zabarella a Bonifacio DC sull'auto- 
rita del papa," Rivista di storia della Chiesa in Italia 20 (1966): 375-88; and Gregorio Piaia, 
"La fondazione filosofica della teoria conciliare in Francesco Zabarella," in Antonino Poppi, 
ed., Scienza e filosofia all'Universita di Padova nel Quattrocento, Contributi alia storia 
dell'Universita di Padova 15 (Padua: Centro per la storia dell'Universita, and Trieste: 
LINT, 1983), 449-52. 

The Power of the Visible 83 

When Vergerio's traveling companions thought that they had spotted 
enemy soldiers approaching, they hastily cast away their cloaks lest they 
be robbed. Their fears proved groundless, and only Vergerio, who defi- 
antly preferred to be mugged in his cloak, entered Rome fully clothed. 
The violence of Italian affairs in the late Trecento had created a sort of 
collective paranoia.^' Furthermore, despite physical comfort and good 
health, Vergerio found himself increasingly tense during his Roman 
visit. While returning one Sunday from the stational church of Saint 
Paul's, he and a servant were accosted by a group of the city's magis- 
trates, who approached with their attendants along a street already 
jammed with carnival revelers. The magistrates compelled the servant to 
surrender his horse, despite Vergerio's firm protestations of diplomatic 
immunity. Vergerio only managed to rescue the horse after he had made 
a round of visits to various authorities. That gave him great relief, for 
otherwise the horse would have been run ragged in the carnival 



The episode confirmed Vergerio's negative impression of Rome. The 
city, which had bequeathed the code of law to the Western world, had 
become, in his own words, "the reign of bandits."^^ Disrespect for the 
law characterized those who were responsible for upholding it. And the 
moral demise of the city was reflected in its decrepit physical condition. 
Vergerio had once started to write a letter in which he promised to de- 
scribe the topography of Rome and her ancient monuments.^^ The exist- 
ing fragment of that letter betrays the mixed emotions that Rome stirred 
within him. The city was richly endowed with monuments to the 
heroes of primitive Christianity; however, the abandoned state of 
Rome's classical ruins left him feeling forlorn. ^^ Vergerio systematically 

^ Epist., 209. 

^ Ibid., 210-11. 

■" Ibid., 205 ("Del mal ladron ora e speloncha e rege") and 229 ("latrones paene intra 
urbem, qui vitae fortunisque omnium insidientur"). 

^^ Epist., 211-20. The letter also appears in Roberto Valentini and Giuseppe Zucchetti, 
eds., Scrittori (secoli XIV-XV), vol. 4 of Codice topografico delta citta di Roma, Fonti per la 
storia d'ltalia 91 (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1953), 89-100. See further 
Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, and 
New York: Humanities Press, 1969), 56-58; Charles L. Stinger, The Renaissance in Rome 
(Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana Univ. Press, 1985), 37-38; and Christine Smith, Architecture in 
the Culture of Humanism: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Eloquence 1400-1470 (New York and Ox- 
ford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1992), 174-76. 

^^ Epist., 212 ("Mihi vero, gratias Deo, posteaquam hue veni, valitudo corporis Integra 
fuit, quam frugalitate et exercitio confeci, medicamentis optimis et habendae et retinendae 
sospitatis; verum animo atque ingenio laboro"); and 215 ("Non est igitur ut sim deteriori 


listed many of the sites which pilgrims visited in and around the city; 
his descriptions have a cold, clinical character. That is especially evident 
in his mention of the tomb of Saint Jerome. "Next to the relic of the 
Lord's manger Jerome lies buried in the ground." When Giovanni Con- 
versini da Ravenna had seen the tomb of Jerome twenty years earlier, he 
had shed copious tears. Despite lifelong devotion to Jerome, Vergerio 
had no such emotional experience in Rome. What Jerome had worked 
so hard to foster, the interweaving of the classical heritage and Christian 
belief, was being torn apart before Vergerio's eyes.^'* 

Vergerio uttered a profound lament for the state of classical 
Rome.^^ The former greatness of the ancient city was evident in the 
massive scale of the remains and the wealth of the materials used to 
build it. What angered him was the contempt which contemporaries 
showed for that rich heritage. Vergerio decried the possibility that the 
common people, out of avarice and ignorance, might destroy all that re- 
mained. Painters tore up books and used their folios to sketch cheap 
souvenirs. The Romans saved themselves the bother of purchasing lime 
by melting down marble remnants in furnaces scattered among the city's 
ruins.^^ What humanists worked to conserve — the books and monu- 
ments of antiquity— the common people destroyed. The Pyramid of 
Gaius Cestius was so overgrown with vines that its inscriptions were no 
longer legible. The Testaccio— a mound composed of potsherds dumped 
from the neighboring warehouses in ancient times and considered by 
Vergerio to constitute physical proof of Rome's imperial might— annual- 
ly diminished in size during the pillaging that accompanied the carnival 
festivities, Roman heroes buried along the Via Appia remained anony- 

animo, verum ingenio sum tardiore quam soleo . . ."). See also ibid., 210: "cum essem animo 
mihi ipsi molesto. . . ." 

^ Ibid., 211-15, esp. 214: "Proxime intra urbem est ecclesia Sanctae Mariae Maioris, 
miraculose monstrata, ubi iuxta praesaepe Domini Hieronymus humi sepultxis iacet." Re- 
migio Sabbadini, Giovanni da Ravenna insigne figura d'umanista (1343-1408), Studi umani- 
stici 1 (Como, 1924), 50-51, 159, esp. 159: "ad busta servorum tuorum Hieronymi et 
Gregorii, quos summopere semper fueram veneratus, emisi. Numquam fletu maiore genitor 
carissimum filium aut amicus amicum nequaquam revidendum dimisit, quam ego Hieronymi 

^5 Epist., 215-20. 

^* Ibid., 216: "Cum enim duo sint quibus extare rerum memoria soleat, libris scilicet 
atque aedificiis, duabus artibus Romani in eorum excidium pemiciemque contendunt: pi- 
ctorum scilicet, qui, ut sudaria peregrinis effingat, utillimos plerumque et qui in orbe unici 
sunt libros evertunt; item eorum qui fornaces exercent, qui, ne lapides e longinquo vehant, 
aedificia destruunt, uti marmor et vivum lapidem convertant in calcem." 

The Power of the Visible 85 

mous because later Romans had pilfered the inscriptions and portraits 
that originally marked their tombs.^^ 

For Vergerio, the ruin of Rome had escalated with disastrous conse- 
quences. Lack of appreciation for the city's physical patrimony bred 
lack of concern for the general quality of life. The city's air was polluted 
and posed a grave health risk. Moreover, moral decay was rampant in 
the city. A cavalier attitude toward the visible remains of classical civili- 
zation was symptomatic of a deeper malady. Evidence of Christian con- 
tempt and bigotry was visible for all to see. Vergerio's text drifted off in 
mid-sentence; he apparently found the task too painful to complete. The 
destruction of the statue of Virgil and the destruction of Rome stirred 
within Vergerio the same loathing. Acting in the name of a misguided 
piety, whether willfully or by negligence, rulers and the common people 
were destroying a rich part of the cultural patrimony. 

The visit to Rome confirmed Vergerio's notion that a powerful seg- 
ment of society sought nothing less than the destruction of Roman cul- 
ture. Ironically, it also opened up for him the possibility that he might 
find patronage within the Roman church. If Zabarella received a higher 
ecclesiastical office, Vergerio would readily join his household. Vergerio 
also curried favor with Cardinal Cosimo Migliorati, and he continued to 
correspond with him after leaving Rome.^^ Vergerio remained im- 
pressed by Migliorati's availability to a host of petitioners. Any cardinal 
who practiced humanity and continence stood out in sharp contrast to 
the immoral tenor of life in Rome. Such virtue was "a rarity in the city 
and unique in the Roman curia." Faithful to the rhetorical canons 
which taught the persuasive power of ethos, Vergerio began to formu- 
late a vision of reform for the church that would have positive effects on 
society as well.^' 

Moral decline had become widespread due to the Schism that rival 
claimants to the papacy had caused. In Vergerio's estimation, the divi- 
sion continued due to moral failings: ambitious prelates received support 
from malevolent rulers. Only one other schism, that between the Or- 

'' Ibid., 218. 

^ Ibid., 224-27. 

^' Ibid., 228-30, esp. 229: "Quae vox tametsi ad summam laudem uiam pertineat, tamen 
et conditionem nostrorum tenijxjrum notat, cum est in urbe raritas, in curia solitudo, apud 
omnes inopia, ac nimirum quidem obsidemur undique, finitimos hostes habemus, latrones 
paene intra urbem, qui vitae fortunisque omnium insidientur." The date and the addressee 
of the letter are uncertain. 



thodox and Roman churches, had lasted so long and produced such ca- 
lamitous effects. As Orthodox Christians now found themselves reduced 
to a tiny parcel of territory by the onslaught of Islam, so Latin Chris- 
tians found themselves plagued by civil wars and threatened by the 
Turks. The Schism would end, Vergerio argued, when churchmen and 
their political allies underwent a moral conversion. They must begin to 
live the values which Christians proclaimed. Otherwise, Vergerio felt 
certain that the metaphorical destruction of the soul of Christianity 
through schism would continue to produce physical wounds like the 
endless wars between England and France. 

From 1397 to 1400, Vergerio continued to pursue a demanding pro- 
gram that entailed diverse studies. He apparently completed his law de- 
gree in Bologna because the records of the University of Padua described 
him in May of 1400 as a doctor of civil law {in iure civili peritus) .'^ Be- 
fore returning to Padua, however, Vergerio had also seized the opportu- 
nity to study Greek under Manuel Chrysoloras. Chrysoloras had come 
to Florence in February of 1397, and by October of 1398 Vergerio was 
searching for housing there.'*^ Because Vergerio had joined the group 
so late in the course, he admitted that he competed hard to catch up 
with the others.'^^ His success made an impression on his fellow stu- 
dents. Once Leonardo Bruni had realized Vergerio's extensive education, 
he concealed his insecurities by assuring himself that Vergerio must be 
older than he. In fact, Vergerio's achievements as a humanist at that 
point in his career overshadowed the more modest accomplishments of 
his Florentine confreres. Moreover, his study of Greek after attaining 
degrees in law and medicine proved his strong inclination to combine 
humanist studies with his professional endeavors.'^^ 

^° See ibid., 225, 227, 233; and Smith's comments on 237 n. 1. Bartolomeo da Saliceto 
had come to Bologna to teach law from 1398 to 1399. From 1400 to 1402, he lectured at 
Padua; see Annalisa Belloni, Professori giuristi a Padova nel secolo XV: Profili bio-bibliografici 
e cattedre, lus Commune: Studien zur europaischen Rechtsgeschichte 28 (Frankfurt am Main: 
V. Klostermann, 1986), 91, 161-67. 

^' Epist., 227; and Giuseppe Cammelli, Manuele Crisolora, vol. 1 of I dotti bizantini e le 
origini dell'umanesimo (Florence: Vallecchi, 1941), 52-57, 110-16. 

^^ Epist., 244-45: "Nam multos ab initio qui convenerant, alios discendi labor deterruit, 
alios sciendi desperatio, quasi maiore cura et longiore tempore opus esset. Quicquid tamen 
illud aut quantulumcumque est, quod haerere in / tempore admodum brevi potuit, me sortis 
meae non pudet, nee paenitet studii laborisque causa suscepti. Nam metuens id quod evenit, 
nos scilicet premature magistro destituendos, simul etiam quia postremus omnium in ea 
studia veneram, attentius invigilabam magnaque cura insudavi, ut aliquos, qui me praeibant, 
si possem, attingerem." 

■•' See Smith, Epist, 241 n. 2, 242 n. 4; Garin, "Ritratto di Bruni," 4-5; Hans Baron, 

The Power of the Visible 87 

An outbreak of plague forced the suspension of the lessons in 1399, 
and early the following year Chrysoloras left Florence to meet the em- 
peror Manuel Palaeologus in Pavia. Vergerio departed soon after Chry- 
soloras, By 30 April 1400, after an absence of almost three years, Verge- 
rio had resettled in Padua, where he continued to study Greek on his 
own. In his loneliness, Vergerio found the Greek books that he had bor- 
rowed to be his only serious academic companionship. He read many 
works of Plutarch, selections from Thucydides, the Gorgias of Plato 
twice, and the better part of the Odyssey with help from the literal Latin 
translation of Leonzio Pilato.^ Perennial problems gave him no re- 
spite. His parents suffered from ill health; moreover, the plague struck 
Bologna in the spring of 1398, Florence the next year, and Padua during 
the summer of 1400. Although Vergerio continued to nurture a wide va- 
riety of contacts, he reaped no career benefit. Frustrated, he lashed out 
bitterly at the success that sycophants enjoyed in his day. Myopic 
patrons rewarded their fawning dishonesty.^^ Driven by penury and 

"The Year of Leonardo Bruni's Birth and Methods for Determining the Ages of Humanists 
Bom in the Trecento," Speculum 52 (1977): 599-604, 614-25; and Ronald G. Witt, Hercules 
at the Crossroads: The Life, Works, and Thought of Coluccio Salutati, Duke Monographs in 
Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1983), 303-10. 
Remigio Sabbadini suggested that Vergerio may have accompanied Pietro Marcello from 
Bologna to Florence; see his "Antonio da Romagno e Pietro Marcello," Nuovo archivio 
veneto 30 (1915): 218-19. 

^ See EpisL, 238-42, 244; Agostino Pertusi and Ezio Franceschini, "Un'ignota Odissea 
latina dell'ultimo Trecento," Aevum 33 (1959): 325-27, 351; Pertusi, Leonzio Pilato fra 
Petrarca e Boccaccio: Le sue versioni omeriche negli autograft di Venezia e la cultura greca del 
primo Umanesimo, Civilta veneziana: Studi 16 (Venice: Istituto per la Collaborazione Cul- 
tural, 1964), 140, 149-50, 522, 531-63, 558-59; and Pertusi, "L'umanesimo greco dalla fine 
del secolo XTV agli inizi del secolo XVI," in Dal primo Quattrocento al Concilio di Trento, 
vol. 3 of Storia della cultura veneta (Vicenza: Pozza, 1980-81), 177-89. 

*^ EpisL, 208, 225-27, 247-48. From Rome, Vergerio corresponded with Ognibene Scola 
in Padua (ibid., 205-11); Scola may have studied Greek in Florence before he officially en- 
tered the court of Francesco Novello in May of 1399. Unlike Roberto Cessi, "Nuove 
ricerche su Ognibene Scoh," Archivio storico lombardo 36, fasc. 23 (1909): 95-101, and Cam- 
melli, Manuele Crisolora, 67-68, I believe that Scola did study in Florence because Leonardo 
Bruni described him as a "companion in studies" and addressed him by the Greek form of 
his name ("Panagathus"); see Francesco Paolo Luiso, Studi sull'Epistolario di Leonardo Bruni, 
Lucia Gualdo Rosa, ed., Studi storici, fasc. 122-24 (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il 
Medio Evo, 1980), 18-19. Vergerio also associated himself with an influential group of 
lawyers at the Carrara court (Ludovico Buzzacarini, his father Arcoano, and his brothers Pa- 
taro and Francesco, Antonio da Sant'Angelo, and Pietro Alvarotti [Epist, 209]). He corre- 
sponded with Michele da Rabatta, indicating his readiness to serve the influential Carrara 
courtier at the first invitation (232-34). Zabarella and Vergerio apparently promoted the ef- 
forts of Alano Adimari to become bishop of Florence (230-32). Vergerio thanked Giacomo 
da Treviso for helping him to meet Carlo Zeno, the wealthy Venetian admiral (221-23; and 
Margaret L. King, Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance [Princeton: Prince- 
ton Univ. Press, 1986], 50-51). Luigi Pesce has argued that Giacomo probably urged Ver- 


fear of the plague, Vergerio had to return home to Capodistria in the 
summer of 1400. His fortunes had fallen in inverse proportion to his 
academic training. Toward the end of the year, Vergerio finally had 
sufficient funds and mettle to return to Padua. At that low point, 
Francesco Zabarella dedicated to him a treatise entitled De felicitate.^ 
As Zabarella noted, happiness was a subject that the two friends often 
had occasion to discuss. Ever in quest of that elusive goal, Vergerio 
rededicated himself to impressing the Carrara rulers with his political 

gerio to seek a prebend in the diocese of Treviso in 1398; see his La chiesa di Treviso nel 
primo Quattrocento, Italia sacra: Studi e documenti di storia ecclesiastica 37-39 (Rome: 
Herder, 1987), 207-9. 

^ See the colophon to the treatise in Padua, Bibl. del Seminario, cod. 196, 225 (quoted 
also by Smith, Epist., 367 n. 1: "Hoc opus inscripsit mihi idem dominus Franciscus, vir, ut 
in iure facile omnium princeps, ita et in ceteris scientia atque eloquentia praeclarissimus, cui 
dignas agere gratias non satis queo cum ob hoc tum et alia in me beneficia, quae tot extant 
ut nedum remunerare sed ne rer\jamerare quidem possim. Petruspaulus Vergerius de 
lustinopoli scripsit haec"); Conrad Bischoff, Studien zu P. P. Vergerio dem Alteren (Berlin 
and Leipzig, 1909), 85-88; zwdG^s^iroZontSi, Francesco Zabarella (1360-1417) (Padua, 1915), 
19-22. The Padua codex is copied from the exemplar made for Vergerio and indicates that 
Zabarella completed the treatise on 18 October 1400 while at the Benedictine monastery of 
S. Maria di Praglia in the Euganean hills. To thank Zabarella, Vergerio composed a poem 
(inc: Omnia iamdudum). The outbreak of the plague at century's end was especially 
devastating. According to Sabbadini, "Antonio da Romagno," 208, Antonio lost a daughter 
in 1398 and then his wife and five sons between August and September of 1400. On the 
same occasion, Antonio's brother lost four sons. Vergerio sent Zabarella's treatise, De 
pestilentia vitanda (1399), to an acquaintance (Salutati?) in Florence. See Epist, 399-422; and 
Agostino Sottili, "La questione ciceroniana in una lettera di Francesco Zabarella a Francesco 
Petrarca (tav. IV)," Quademi per la storia dell'Universita di Padova 6 (1973): 34. From 1400 
to 1401, Salutati and Zabarella exchanged letters regarding the death of two of Salutati's 
sons, and Giovanni Conversini wrote a consolatory work on the death of his son Israele. 
See George W. McClure, Sorrow and Consolation in Italian Humanism (Princeton: Princeton 
Univ. Press, 1991), 95-98, 104. 


A Humanist Education 
for Adolescents 

Around 1389, Pierpaolo Vergerio had written for the first time to 
Francesco Novello in search of patronage. In that letter, Vergerio 
had proposed that a proper course of studies would steer a prince away 
from hedonism and avarice toward a Ufe of personal continence and 
civic justice. An education which formed character would enhance the 
dignity of the nJer and benefit his subjects. In the fall of 1401, Vergerio 
sketched out a similar route to greatness for Ubertino da Carrara, Fran- 
cesco's ten-year-old son. He first emphasized that young persons of 
Ubertino's nobility developed their natural abilities by following moral 
exemplars. Two distinct but related arts nurtured virtue and engendered 
glory for the powerful. First, rulers must concern themselves with the 
discipline of arms, in which the Carrara had traditionally excelled. How- 
ever, Vergerio sought to broaden their education by introducing a po- 
tential new source for praise, the discipline of letters.^ 

By early 1403 at the latest, Vergerio had completed a short treatise 
which expanded upon the basic notions proposed in his letters to the 
Carrara.^ He stated in the preface that he had written two short books 

' Epist, 31-32, 249-51. 

^ On the date of the treatise, see Leonardo Smith, EpisL, 253-54 n. 3; and Giovanni 
Calo, "Nota vergeriana: II De ingenuis moribus e il supposto precettorato del Vergerio alia 
corte di Francesco Novello," Rinascita 2 (1939): 228-32. Both scholars argue for a date be- 
fore the defeat of Francesco Novello at the battle of Casalecchio on 26 June 1402. Vergerio's 
use of Francesco HI and Giacomo da Carrara as examples of finely conditioned princes who 
threw the javelin and swam well may refer to their escape from a Visconti prison after Casa- 


"on the liberal studies of adolescents and their morals" {de liberalibus ad- 
ulescentiae studiis ac moribus). As his letters had already suggested, Ver- 
gerio posited a close relationship between specific studies and formation 
of character. Adolescence signaled the arrival of moral responsibility and 
all of the confusion associated with the maturation process. Vergerio 
therefore designed a program of liberal studies that would instill a sense 
of moral development for the adolescent. Scholars have long debated the 
originality of Vergerio's ideas and the extent to which he was influenced 
by previous theorists.^ The treatise was the first book that Vergerio pub- 
lished, and it is best characterized as a work of personal synthesis. In it 
he reformulated ideas about education which had evolved from the time 
that he had begun to teach at the University of Bologna in 1388. 

Vergerio addressed the work to the son of the Carrara prince. Ac- 
cordingly, the treatise focuses on the life of the aristocracy, particularly 
in the advice given on training in arms, where a note of Spartan rigor 
dominates. Yet Vergerio had a broader audience in mind. He argued 
that education should be the concern not only of the family but of the 
state. In the final analysis, Vergerio intended his remarks for anyone 
who had a natural inclination to liberal studies and participated in politi- 
cal life.'^ Vergerio reiterated some fundamental convictions in the work. 

lecchio; see PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Attilio Gnesotto, ed., 141. Eugenio Garin judiciously 
states that Vergerio wrote the treatise at the beginning of the fifteenth century and may 
have finished it as early as 1402; see his L'educazione in Europa (1400-1600): Problemi e pro- 
grammi (2d ed. Bari: Laterza, 1966), 114-15, A terminus ante quem is supplied by Naples, 
Bibl. Nazionale, cod. VIII.C.8. As described by Cesare Cenci, Manoscritti francescani della 
Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, Spicilegium bonaventurianum 7-8 (Quaracchi: Typographia 
Collegii S. Bonaventurae, and Grottaferrata: Editiones Collegii S. Bonaventurae ad Claras 
Aquas, 1971), 2:819-21, the colophon (fol. 128) indicates that the treatise was copied at Pa- 
dua on 12 September 1403. The scribe, Antonius Petri Donadei de Rocca S. Stephani de 
Aquila, studied canon law at the University of Padua and passed examinations in June of 
1408 before a board that included Francesco Zabarella. 

' See Conrad Bischoff, Studien zu P. P. Vergerio dem Alteren (Berlin and Leipzig, 1909), 
79-85; Smith, Epist., xix-xx; Calo, "Nota vergeriana," 232-35; Giuseppe Saitta, L'umanesi- 
mo, vol. 1 oill pensiero italiano nell'umanesimo e nel rinascimento (Bologna: C. Zuffi, 1949), 
2ii7-7'i; Garin, L'educazione in Europa, 114-19; George Holmes, The Florentine Enlighten- 
ment 1400-50 (New York: Pegasus, 1969), 15-16; David Robey, "Humanism and Education 
in the Early Quattrocento: The De ingenuis moribus of P. P. Vergerio," Bibliotheque 
d'humanisme et Renaissance 42 (1980): 27-58; Robey, "Vittorino da Feltre e Vergerio," in 
Nella Giannetto, ed., Vittorino da Feltre e la sua scuola: Umanesimo, pedagogia, arti, Civilta 
veneziana: Saggi 31 (Florence: Olschki, 1981), 242-43, 252-53; Benjamin G. Kohl, "Human- 
ism and Education," in Albert Rabil, Jr., ed.. Humanism and the Disciplines, vol. 3 of Renais- 
sance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, and Legacy (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 
1988), 12-13; and Paul F. Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 
1300-1600 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1989), 117-19. 

■* For the emphasis on princes, see PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 109-11, 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 91 

When he described freedom, he consistently emphasized one's interior 
attitude; an individual might still be free in a situation where political 
structures denied basic liberties. Authentic freedom liberated one from 
the urges of self-gratification and allowed one to be useful to others. 
Studies were liberal, then, to the extent that they fostered interior free- 
dom through the formation of character. The formation of character 
was of special concern once one reached adolescence. With puberty 
came lust (libido). Finally, the educator must artfully combine discipline 
and tolerance. Students needed to mature in their moral autonomy. 

Vergerio's notion of freedom had evolved through his own experi- 
ence and his understanding of classical ideals. Given his restrictive 
notions of political participation, Vergerio tended to emphasize the mor- 
al dimension of the free person. He reflected upon his own interior free- 
dom and what inhibited that freedom. When human beings succumbed 
to physical urges, they sacrificed their freedom. To fill one's stomach or 
acquire riches or satisfy one's lust all comprised enslavement to egoistic 
impulses. Genuine interior freedom expressed itself in acts of altruism. 
Vergerio had studied in order that he be "free and good."^ He found 
ready confirmation for his convictions in Cicero's classification of 
human activities. Because some activities were performed to earn money 
or to indulge sensual pleasures, Cicero labeled them sordid [illiberalis). 
He rated other activities, which required greater practical intelligence 
(prudentia) and provided social benefits (utilitas), as befitting a free per- 
son {liberalis).^ 

In the treatise, Vergerio offered specific signs of a "free genius" in an 
adolescent. In general, such youth possessed enthusiasm for praise and 
burned with a love for glory. Vergerio pardoned adolescents for such 
motivation because their powers of reason were not sufficiently devel- 
oped to allow for less egoistic pursuits. Adolescents of free temperament 
also enjoyed virtuous activity and were malleable enough to accept cor- 

132-43 ("de armis"). For the state's responsibility to educate adolescents, see ibid., 106. On 
the more general audience, see ibid., 99, 101-3, especially the remarks to Ubertino on 99: 
"ut per te ceteros id aetatis commoneam." 

5 EpisL, 15 (Francesco da Faenza to PPV), 22, 30, 55, 57, 60, 88, and 149. 

^ Cicero Off. 1.42.150-51; and PPV, De ingenuis morihus, Gnesono, ed., 100: "Maxime 
vero, qui sunt liberate ingenium a natura consecuti, sinendi non sunt aut inerti otio torpere 
aut illiberalibus implicari negotiis." See also Terence y4f/. 448-49, 462-64, 886-87, Eun. 255- 
64; Cicero Flac. 7.16, 8.18-19; Chaim Wirszubski, Libertas as a Political Idea at Rome during 
the Late Republic and Early Principate (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1950), 7-30; and 
Donald R. Kelley, The Human Measure: Social Thought in the Western Legal Tradition (Cam- 
bridge, Mass., and London: Harvard Univ. Press, 1990), 50. 


rection. Though they should fear physical punishment, Vergerio felt it 
better that they fear disrepute. He allowed for the possibility of using 
the lash on a student, but he likewise condemned the sadistic excesses of 
tutors of the day. Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna, Vergerio's mentor 
from Paduan days, claimed in his autobiography to have witnessed one 
student murdered and others beaten bloody or imprisoned naked within 
a makeshift prison in the dead of winter. Vergerio sought to inculcate a 
sense of civility wholly contrary to such cruelty. Genuine liberal genius 
was incapable of hatred and tended to place the best interpretation on 
things said or done.'' 

However, every adolescent faced a variety of pressures that militated 
against his enthusiasm for virtue and fame. Vergerio recognized that lib- 
eral studies were unpopular in his day; students preferred studies that 
would assure them wealth after their education. Hardheaded pragmatism 
dictated the need for studies more suited to the enterprises of commer- 
cial capitalism. In fact, Vergerio claimed that severe objections had been 
raised concerning the need for liberal studies from ancient times to the 
present. For Vergerio, Plato's ideal of a wise ruler was the exception 
that proved the rule. In the matter of what to study, moreover, many 
adolescents found themselves without a choice. Either they acted from 
constraint or they were influenced by false notions that they had learned 
in conversations or through their encounter with prevailing social 
mores. That left them only two paths to a liberal education: they were 
attracted to those studies, or they were forced into them. Vergerio used 
Ubertino to illustrate his point. His pursuit of a liberal education was in 
part dictated by the wishes of his father and in part reflected the child's 
own decision. To continue on in those studies, however, would prove 
Ubertino's free genius.* 

Vergerio thus discerned two competing sets of values at work in any 
society. One set reflected a person's selfish instincts. The common lot of 
humanity foolishly admired people driven by ambition and avarice. 
They thought such individuals reaped a rich profit. The end of wealth 

^ PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 101-3 ("signa liberalis ingenii"). See also Re- 
migio Sabbadini, Giovanni da Ravenna insigne ftgura d'umanista (1343-1408), Studi umani- 
stici 1 (Como, 1924), 11; and Grendler, Schooling, 35-36. 

* Epist., 131-33, where Vergerio cites Cicero Off. 1.32.117-18. The same ideas are repeat- 
ed in De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 112-16. In general, see Robert E. Proctor, "The 
studia humanitatis: Contemporary Scholarship and Renaissance Ideals," Renaissance Quarter- 
ly 43 (1990): 815-16; and James D. Tracy, "From Humanism to the Humanities: A Critique 
of Grafton and Jardine," Modem Language Quarterly 51 (1990): 131-32. 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 93 

at times even justified illegal means. The character of Herotes in Verge- 
rio's Paulus dramatized in a comic setting the supposed success of un- 
scrupulous entrepreneurs. Extremely clever by nature, Herotes had used 
his abilities to earn pleasing remuneration. He regularly tasted the pros- 
titutes whom he procured for Paulus in order to assure that they were 
not poisoned. On the other hand, Vergerio felt that Petrarch had 
changed his priorities in a positive way. Infatuated with Laura as an ado- 
lescent, Petrarch later used his talents for literary and scholarly pursuits. 
His personal fame as a poet reflected his success in a life committed to 
studies that were of aid to a broader public. Vergerio contrasted arts that 
were good and useful to those that were hedonistic, disadvantageous, or, 
worst of all, harmful.' 

In the treatise, Vergerio reiterated his fundamental educational con- 
viction. Moral living was an ars. It had a set of rules derived from expe- 
rience that one could communicate to students of genuine ability. Then, 
through lived experience, they must learn to apply the precepts. Verge- 
rio urged that all education from infancy on be directed toward helping 
the seeds of virtue grow within the human heart. Moral progress was 
possible throughout life, and a moral education might benefit students 
of any level of intelligence. On the other hand, Vergerio emphasized to 
Ubertino that there was nothing magical about such an education. It had 
inherent limits imposed by the character of the student whom one 
trained. An education in the good arts could do no more than mitigate 
the dementia of the emperor Claudius or the cruelty of Nero. Neverthe- 
less, Vergerio never wavered in his belief that such an education should 
foster the humane instincts to assist others rather than the drive to 
gratify oneself. ^° 

Vergerio purposefully approached Ubertino at an age when he had 
already begun to train with his father's army and was fast approaching 
puberty. From the days of the Paulus, Vergerio had indicated his aware- 

' Epist., 149, 174-75, 181-82; andDe ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 104: "Quern igitur 
eum speremus futurum senem, qui sit in adulescentia tenax atque avarus? Non quidem quo 
permittendae sint eis largitiones, quas exercere cum discretione munerum, personarum meri- 
torumque nesciunt, sed corruptae naturae atque illiberalis ingenii sit indicium. Hi igitur aut 
ad quaestuosas artes faciunt, aut manuale opus, aut negotiationem ad curam rei familiaris, 
praecipue qui, etsi nobiliores fuerint quandoque artes consecuti, illastamen semper, ut cete- 
ra, ad ignobilem quaestum redigunt; quae quidem res est ab ingenuis mentibus prorsus 

^° Epist., 134, 175; ^indi De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 104, 112-13, 116-17. Vergerio 
cites Cicero Tusc. 3.1.2 and may also have found support in Pseudo Plutarch, "De liberis 
educandis," 2A-C, 3E-F. 


ness of the difficult choices faced by all adolescents. At a moment when 
their faculty to decide was most immature and their sexual awareness 
new, adolescents were expected to choose between virtue or vice. De- 
spite a subconscious insight into the ideal of virtue, Paulus had slipped 
back into his profligate ways. In contrast, Vergerio's life of Petrarch was 
written to illustrate that the poet had matured beyond his relationship 
with Laura. To depict the habits of adolescence in his treatise, Vergerio 
relied heavily upon the treatment of pathos in the second book of Aris- 
totle's Rhetoric. Adolescents, on the one hand, displayed a smugness and 
a readiness to conquer the world. Loathe to admit that they did not 
know something, they tended rather to lie in order to protect their fra- 
gile egos. On the other hand, adolescents were extremely sensitive. They 
feared dishonor and lacked guile. Along that basic spectrum from exag- 
gerated self-confidence to fragile sensibility, an adolescent typically suc- 
cumbed to passions without permitting reason a moderating role.^^ 

Above all, Vergerio joined classical thinkers in positing lust {libido) 
as the characteristic vice of adolescence. To counteract that vice, Verge- 
rio made practical recommendations for adolescent education. Dancing 
and fraternization between the two sexes should be severely restricted. 
Students should be kept busy throughout the day. Perhaps with an eye 
on the possibility of masturbation, Vergerio called solitude dangerous 
for an adolescent. One must also carefully investigate to assure the good 
reputation of the teacher. Finally, one must be attentive to the compan- 
ions whom an important student like Ubertino might have. Herotes had 
led Paulus astray. Already in Vergerio's initial formulation, a classical 
education for adolescents had overtones of a ritual entry into manhood 
that became more pronounced in certain regions of Europe in the fol- 
lowing centuries. ^^ 

" De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 104-6, where Vergerio cites Terence And. 60-61. 

'^ De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 106-11, where Vergerio cites Aristotle Rhet. 2.12.3 
and Cicero Off. 1.34.122, Sen. 11.36. See also Walter J. Ong, "Latin Language Study as a 
Renaissance Puberty Rite," Studies in Philology 56 (1959): 103-24. Vergerio lived in an era 
that viewed masturbation as morally culpable but fairly normal. Because the practice of sod- 
omy often involved pederasty, it was severely punished. See Jean-Louis Flandrin, "Repres- 
sion and Change in the Sexual Life of Young People in Medieval and Early Modem Times," 
in Robert Wheaton and Tamara K. Hareven, eds., Family and Sexuality in French History 
(Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1980), 30, 40-42; and Guido Ruggiero, The 
Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice, Studies in the History of 
Sexuality 1 (New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985), 114-15, 121, 148-51. The 
problem of the sexual abuse of children by their teachers partially explained why school was 
held in the public squares of Roman cities; see William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cam- 
bridge, Mass., and London: Harvard Univ. Press, 1989), 237. The Venetians of the fifteenth 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 95 

As the student developed, the teacher should adjust his material. Ver- 
gerio's treatment of the liberal arts in the treatise represents the fruit of 
his long years in school. He evaluated the disciplines according to two 
categories: those which supplied enjoyment and a sense of satisfaction 
{fui delectationem, iucundum, pulcherrimum) and those that were useful 
for activity in society {utilis, honestum). One fundamental conviction 
helped Vergerio to structure learning in stages. Prepubescent boys 
ishould study grammar; postpubescent adolescents needed to learn the 
humanities because they focused upon the formation of character.'^ 
Vergerio recognized from his own experience that the study of Latin 
grammar supplied the foundation for all subsequent learning. In 1395, he 
had outlined the appropriate topics for the study of grammar: tropes and 
figures of speech, spelling and syllabification, prosody and prose 
rhythms, pronunciation and compositional exercises. Together with 
Francesco Zabarella, Vergerio put together a manual for grammarians, 
De arte metrica. Yet, like many educators, Vergerio had no taste for 
teaching grammar. In 1396, Vergerio candidly admitted that the constant 
need to drill grammar students threatened to rot one's brain. His treatise 
insisted that students not rush on to weightier subjects without attaining 
facility in Latin grammar, but Vergerio left its teaching to others.^^ 

The treatise also offers a picture of Vergerio 's experience of the uni- 
versity curriculum. Having begun his career as a lecturer in dialectics, 
Vergerio continued to respect the ways in which the discipline sharp- 
ened one's reasoning and helped one to argue to sound conclusions. 
However, logic lacked a moral purpose. ^^ Vergerio remembered that 
his study of the disciplines of the quadrivium and of science had proven 
personally engaging. He saw music primarily as a form of recreation, 
though the investigation of mathematical proportions helped one to 

century tried to solve the same problem by limiting the hours during which school might 
meet; see Ruggiero, Boundaries of Eros, 138. 

'^ Epist., 131-34, 142 (where Vergerio describes a boy of twelve or thirteen years of age 
as a puer), 276-77. Among classical sources, Vergerio may have drawn upon Pseudo Plu- 
tarch, "De liberis educandis," 12A-13C, Seneca Ep. 88.20, and Quintilian 1.4.5-6. Harris, 
Ancient Literacy, 233, challenges the opinion that there were three clear-cut stages in Roman 
schooling (ludi magister, grammaticus, rhetor). 

'^ See Epist, 44-45, 157-59; Remo L. Guidi, Aspetti religiosi nella letteratura del Quattro- 
cento (Rome and Vicenza: Libreria Intemazionale Edizioni Francescane, 1973-83), 4:58-69; 
and Harris, Ancient Literacy, 237. The manuscript containing the De arte metrica, Venice 
Marc. lat. Xin.41 (4729), has corrections and additions in the hand of Pietro da Monugna- 

'* EpisL, 42, 85; and De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 123. ^ 


gauge the reasons for consonance and dissonance. He frankly liked the 
certitude of the answers one reached in the mathematical disciplines 
(arithmetic and geometry). He found that astronomy raised our minds 
to a more luminous world. Accurate calculations allowed one to predict 
the conjunction of the stars, chiefly for eclipses of the sun and moon.^^ 

Together with rhetoric, Vergerio gave most attention in his treatise 
to natural science. He recapitulated his study of the Aristotelian corpus, 
moving from the causes and accidents of animate and inanimate objects 
{De physico) to the movements of the planets and their effects on earth 
{De caelo et mundo). What Vergerio particularly enjoyed was the ability 
of science to explain matters that the masses treated as marvels. That 
was especially true of phenomena that occurred in the atmosphere 
around the earth, which acquired the status of portents in the common 
imagination. Human intelligence was drawn to investigate such un- 
knowns. Vergerio saw medicine as closely conjoined and, in effect, de- 
rived from natural science. The study of medicine had appealed to Ver- 
gerio. He had hoped that it would prove useful in healing bodily illness. 
However, Vergerio decried the manner of exercising the discipline as 
"least liberal."^^ 

From subsequent remarks and from the premise of his entire treatise, 
it is fair to infer that he disliked the demand for money and concomi- 
tant lack of moral sensibilities among practicing physicians in his day. 
That realization may explain why one as interested as Vergerio was in 
scientific investigation ultimately decided not to practice medicine. 
Though he experienced the fascination of the scientific world, he looked 
for more from learning than merely the pleasure of discovery. As his 
own studies progressed, Vergerio increasingly tended to emphasize the 
importance of moral philosophy. Vergerio saw parallels between natural 
and moral philosophy. Both delved into areas with uncertainties and un- 

16 ppY^ Dg ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 124-25. In 1391, Vergerio had used a 
formula to reckon the number of troops involved in the campaign against Giangaleazzo Vis- 
conti {Epist., 32). By 1400, however, Vergerio's friends wrote to advise him of a coming 
eclipse. He admitted that he no longer had time to calculate such matters for himself be- 
cause his priorities had changed. See Epist., 236; and Tiziana Pesenti, Professori e promotori 
di medicina nello Studio di Padova dal 1405 al 1509: Repertorio bio-bibliografico, Contributi 
alia storia dell'Universita di Padova 16 (Padua: Centro per la storia dell'Universita, and 
Trieste: LINT, 1984), 30-32. 

17 ppv, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 125-26. Vergerio dismissed theology as 
nothing more than Aristotelian metaphysics which treated ultimate causes and matters that 
were removed from sense perception (126). See also Robey, "Humanism and Education," 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 97 

knowns. However, natural philosophy comprised a speculative science, 
whereas ethics focused upon behavior. And the natural sciences had no 
need of public speaking. Scientists worked in isolation from the crowds 
of the public squares.** 

By 1396, Vergerio had formulated a special program of education for 
those interested in a career in public service. In three letters to Ludovico 
Buzzacarini, Vergerio argued for the utility of history, moral philoso- 
phy, and rhetoric." History alone had the capacity to conserve the 
past record of human ciJture. It supplied a vital source of information 
and of vivid illustration. Only a sound grounding in moral philosophy 
directed men away from the insatiable quest for riches. Vergerio pre- 
ferred to measure men by the quality of their lives. The letter on 
rhetoric is a watershed for the humanist movement. It is self-consciously 
avant-garde. When Vergerio advocated that judicial trials be contested 
through speeches, he thereby argued for the restoration of rhetoric to its 
traditional social settings. Secondly, he offered Cicero as the sole model 
for correct oratorical practice. By arguing for Cicero's superiority to 
Virgil, he suggested that oratory had greater social benefits than poetry. 
Finally, he specified principles for the formation of the orator, which 
stressed decorum in matters of style and substance in opposition to 
unrestrained embellishment. "What could be more insane, given that we 
communicate to understand and be understood, than to waste our 
efforts in speaking in such a way that no one could possibly understand 

Historians have rightly noted that Vergerio's curriculum for those 
seeking a career in public affairs comprised the most creative aspect of 
the entire treatise. Repeating his previous convictions, Vergerio recom- 
mended training in moral philosophy, history, and eloquence.^' Moral 

'* Epist, 30, 39, 41-42, 55-56, 62-63, 88-89, esp. 43: "Re quidem sentio quantae iacturae 
sit eloquentiae studium alteri studio deditis, et nobis maxime qui scientiis mutis insistimus." 

" EpisL, 172-79. For the friendship between Vergerio and Buzzacarini (ca. 1360-1435), 
see Gianni Ballistreri, "Buzzacarini, Ludovico," DBI 15:644-45. 

Epist, 178: "Quid enim potest esse dementius quam, cum ideo sermo et datus et re- 
ceptus sit ut invicem inteUigamur, id sciUcet curare dicendo, ne intelligi possumus?" Ronald 
Witt has demonstrated that Vergerio here adapted ideas of Cicero Or. 11.37-13.42; see his 
"Still the Matter of the Two Giovannis: A Note on Malpaghini and Conversino," forth- 
coming in Rinascimento, n.s., 35 (1995). 

^' PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 121-22. See further Quentin Skinner, The 
Renaissance, vol. 1 of The Foundations of Modem Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge 
Univ. Press, 1978), 90; Robey, "Humanism and Education," 43-44, 47; John M. McMana- 
mon, "Innovation in Early Himianist Rhetoric: The Oratory of Pier Paolo Vergerio the 


philosophy was prescriptive, offering principles on proper behavior and 
on general and specific duties within society. It was the most liberal of 
all the arts because zeal for integrity produced free individuals. Since his- 
tory recorded examples of actions and convictions from ages past, it sup- 
plied illustrations for the principles of moral philosophy. Vergerio con- 
ceded the novelty of including rhetoric within the program and defend- 
ed its appropriateness by adducing the Roman conviction that eloquence 
belonged to political culture {civilis scientia)P One mastered the art by 
acquiring the ability to speak seriously and with appropriate embellish- 
ment in order to persuade one's fellow citizens. 

He expanded upon his views of rhetoric later in the treatise.^^ He 
lamented the state of the discipline in his own day. Of the three great 
opportunities for public speaking in antiquity, only that of celebratory 
rhetoric had survived. Lawyers no longer gave structured discourses 
when prosecuting or defending an accused criminal. Princes no longer 
heard speeches when seeking advice on political decisions, and the gen- 
eral public lacked all sophistication in recognizing authentic eloquence. 
They simply were satisfied to be entertained. That left only epideictic 
speeches, and even they were not composed according to the canons of 
rhetoric established in antiquity. Rhetoric should regain its place as the 
most important discipline of the trivium and as a key study for all liber- 
al minds engaged in public affairs. Vergerio's defense of rhetoric and its 
place in a curriculum for political formation redefines the social role of 
the humanist intellectual. 

In the treatise, Vergerio actually analyzed the respective value of a 
variety of educational curricula. He discussed the value of the disciplines 
that the Greeks had taught to boys. He evaluated the trivium, the 
quadrivium, and the professional studies of the universities of his day, 
calling upon his own lengthy experience. He placed special emphasis on 
three disciplines that would permit humanists to recover the rhetorical 
culture of Greco-Roman antiquity. The humanist orator might then re- 
assume his place at the center of public life. In evaluating various pro- 
grams of education, Vergerio saw positive aspects in all of them. Never- 
theless, he did emphasize basic differences among the arts and sciences. 

Elder," Rmascimento, n.s., 22 (1982): 6; and Benjamin G. Kohl, "The Changing Concept of 
the studia humanitatis in the Early Renaissance," Renaissance Studies 6, no. 2 (1992): 194. 

^ Cicero Inv. 1.5.6, cited by Quintilian 2.15.33. Cf. Cicero De or. 1.43.193. 

^^ See PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 123-24; and McManamon, "Innova- 
tion," 7-9. 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 99 

Disciplines such as grammar and dialectic had universal application for 
their preparatory nature. Disciplines such as arithmetic, geometry, as- 
tronomy, and natural science gave the learner a sense of personal satis- 
faction upon mastery. Disciplines such as moral philosophy, history, 
and rhetoric made the student a useful member of society. Vergerio also 
felt that law might serve a useful purpose, provided that its practitioners 
did not purvey their expertise to get rich.^"* There were disciplines 
about which Vergerio expressed mixed feelings. Though poetry might 
improve one's writing ability and assist character development, it still 
seemed to Vergerio primarily a form of entertainment.^^ Vergerio also 
noted that those elements of "drawing" {ars designativa, ars protractiva) 
which were utilized to write books had great importance in preserving 
classical learning. Vergerio once digressed in the course of his treatise so 
that he might lament the loss of so many ancient books. As a remedy, 
he urged the preparation of a pool of copyists trained in the new canons 
of handwriting.^^ 

In concluding his analysis, Vergerio emphasized that one need not 
master all of the aforementioned disciplines to acquire a liberal educa- 
tion. He may have spoken from his own unusually extensive academic 
experience. Students should construct a curriculum based upon their 
talents and interests.^'' They should also remember that there are links 
among the disciplines. For example, one with ready wit but poor com- 
munication skills might profit by studying prose composition and rhet- 
oric. There were dangers in an inordinate curiosity, which might lead a 
student to sample too many disciplines or to concentrate exclusively on 

24 ppVj De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 126. 

^ Ibid., 14-25. Vergerio admits that music likewise provides entertainment, but its har- 
monies might moderate the soul's wantonness (lascivia). 

^^ See PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 122-23 (on drawing); Michael Baxandall, 
Giotto and the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial 
Composition 1350-1450, Oxford-Warburg Studies 6 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), 125; and Bax- 
andall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of 
Pictorial Style (2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 139-41. Vergerio 
felt that the Greeks valued drawing for typically pragmatic reasons. Given that the Greeks 
liked to purchase painted vases, pictures, and statues, training in drafting helped one to rec- 
ognize artistic quality at a fair price. Applying Vergerio's fundamental categories, drafting 
among the Greeks was useful {utilis) and respectable {honesta). In the early fifteenth century, 
however, drafting had lost much worth because those skills were left almost exclusively to 
painters, who practiced a mechanical art. In the digression, Vergerio rated books superior 
to the visual arts of painting and sculpture. While visual representations captured the exteri- 
or aspect of a person or situation at a fixed point in time, books could record the character 
of an individual or of a society as it developed over time (119-21). 

^ PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 126-28. 

100 CHAPTER 6 

one. As always, Vergerio urged a student not to structure his educational 
program in an effort to gain wealth. 

Vergerio 's open approach to organizing a curriculum reflects a basic 
quality of the entire treatise. As David Robey has observed, Vergerio 
balanced any rigor in his educational recommendations with a sense of 
tolerance toward the maturing student. He had imbibed the revolution- 
ary spirit of the comedy of Terence early in his career and carried it 
over into his treatise on liberal education. He admitted that the signs he 
offered for spotting a "liberal genius" were by no means infallible. Na- 
ture herself tended to hide succulent fruits under a prickly skin. After af- 
firming that lust {libido) was the characteristic vice of adolescence, he 
cautioned that one could not therefore conclude that all adolescents 
were guilty of practicing the vice. He wished to alert parents and 
teachers to a tendency. Even children with learning impairments might 
profit from an education focused upon the formation of character. One 
should offer them subjects in which they showed the greatest promise of 
success. Although Vergerio took special interest in the value of "letters" 
(litterae) for one dedicated to public service, he thought reading and 
writing valuable for the contemplative life as well. Letters supplied a 
universal therapy for the problems of laziness or anxiety.^* 

Vergerio's tolerant approach did not mean that he was inattentive to 
detail. In fact, he paid close attention to the overall environment in 
which the educator worked. In the Paulus, he had satirized the excessive 
license enjoyed by university students from wealthy families. His con- 
versations at Padua with Giovanni Conversini confirmed his notion of 
the dangers of student revelry. Early in his life, Giovanni had sold his 
property and then set out to enjoy himself. He was a welcome guest at 
student parties, given his ability to compose bawdy lyrics for his music. 
Vergerio himself knew the ways in which Paduan students preyed upon 
unsuspecting citizens, whom they robbed of their money.^^ Thus, Ver- 
gerio recommended that the education of adolescents take place away 
from the family home and the city of origin, and he preferred the situa- 
tion of a boarding school where all organizational aspects fell under the 
control of the master. Vergerio outlined a day that was equally divided 
between study, eating and relaxation, and sleep. Adolescents needed a 

^ Ibid., 102 (cf. Epist., 89), 107, 113, 117-21; and Robey, "Humanism and Education," 

^' See Sabbadini, Giovanni da Ravenna, 31-32; and PPV, De principibus Carrariensibus, 
RIS 16:143C-44A. 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 101 

regimen of food and drink that emphasized essential nourishment, 
which did not include wine. They should receive training in proper 
manners. He also gave explicit instructions for the structuring of leisure 
activities as he remembered his own outings with Francesco Zabarella. 
To sharpen one's diligence, one might hunt, fowl, or fish. To lighten 
one's burdens, Vergerio suggested riding a horse, taking a leisurely walk, 
exchanging humorous anecdotes, and listening to music. He commended 
games of skill because they required training and practice like the arts. 
On the contrary, he proscribed games of chance like throwing dice.^° 

Among the most important elements of the learning environment 
were those that one could see. Vergerio never wavered in his commit- 
ment to the power of the visible. To characterize the program that he 
had in mind, he opened the treatise with a series of metaphors from 
visual arts such as architecture and pottery. For example, he states that 
adolescence was the moment to lay foundations for one's future life as 
an adult. He also encourages educators who work with adolescent stu- 
dents to mold their souls toward a life of virtue. Perhaps most pervasive 
was a metaphor from sculpture. Vergerio saw the liberal arts as polish- 
ing one's natural gifts of mind and body. That education was the culmi- 
nation of a process: one must first select raw material of promise, then 
rough out a basic design, and finally polish and finish the work. Verge- 
rio gladly left the initial stages of introducing children to Latin to the 
grammarians. They were the skilled stonecutters who made the polish- 
ing work of the humanists possible. Humanists, however, were to be the 
educational artists.^^ 

The representation of moral character served as a matrix for virtually 
all of Vergerio's educational convictions. As a young student himself, he 
had asserted that "it befits every individual to conform himself to the 
examples of [good] persons." In the treatise, Vergerio repeated a chal- 
lenge to educators first offered by Plato and then by Cicero. "Since 
[adolescents], given their inexperience in human affairs, are unable 
through reasoning to embrace the appealing visage itself of honest vir- 
tue, which, if it could be seen by the eyes, would excite wondrous affec- 
tion for learning about itself . . . the next best approach consists in their 
attempting, from their zeal for glory and praise, to achieve the highest 

^ PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 108-9, 111, 137, 142-45. 

'' See ibid., 97, 99; and Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators, 27-29. Cf. Harris, Ancient lAt- 
eracy, 160, who notes that, in matters of education, Plautus compared the role of parents to 
that of builders {MostelUria 125-26). 

102 CHAPTER 6 

Standards available. "^^ Socrates had urged students to look into a mir- 
ror and see if they saw the moral person they would wish to be. Verge- 
rio felt that students should look upon men of recognized character. An- 
cient heroes had been inspired to perform great deeds when they saw 
the funeral masks of their ancestors or frescoes which narrated great ex- 
ploits. Vergerio felt that living examples would provide the greatest spur 
to virtue. One must choose a pedagogue with the greatest care and as- 
sure that he was a man of integrity.^^ 

Aware of the power of vivid illustrations, Vergerio used them in the 
treatise. To teach adolescents the danger of excessive drinking, he re- 
called the Spartan custom of bringing a drunken servant into formal 
banquets. Though no one should take delight in another's weakness, 
Vergerio felt that the sight would impress upon adolescents the demean- 
ing character of drunkenness. He contrasted appropriate recreational ac- 
tivities to the emperor Domitian's habit of hunting flies with a sharp- 
ened stylus. When a visitor once asked if anyone were present with the 
emperor, a quick-witted servant replied, "Not even a fly." To illustrate 
the principle that matters planted in tender minds are uprooted with 
great difficulty, Vergerio recalled that the Greek master of the lyre, 
Timotheus, had doubled his rates for students who had previously 
studied with another master. Vergerio felt adolescents who set out on 
the path to virtuous wisdom at a young age would continue on this path 
throughout life. The common people tended to believe the opposite. 
Therefore, Vergerio praised the young man who, when an elder told 
him that those who show special genius at a young age often end up 
being old fools, responded: "You must have been a true prodigy. "^^ 

The treatise reflected other personal qualities of its author. Vergerio 
suggested that young people take an hourglass into a library lest they 
waste their time. He always found it hard to be unoccuppied. He also 
enjoyed competition with fellow students, perhaps because he was 
smarter than most. He remembered that poverty had proven an obstacle 

^^ PPV, De ingenuis morihus, Gnesotto, ed., 101 (citing Plato Phdr. 250D and Cicero Offl 
1.5.15): "Cum enim bonum ipsum virtutis, honestatisque faciem, inexperti rerum complecti 
ratione non possunt, quae si posset oculis videri, mirabiles ad sapientiam (ut inquit Plato et 
Cicero meminit) de se amores excitaret, proximum est ab hoc gradu, ut gloriae laudisque 
studio ad optima conari velint." 

" Eptst., 37, 39, 55-56, 60; andDe ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 102-3, 107, 134-35. 
Similar sentiments were expressed in Pseudo Plutarch, "De liberis educandis," 4B-5C; 
Cicero Off. 1.34.122; and Quintilian 1.2.5. 

'* PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 108, 112, 118-19, 128-29. 

A Humanist Education for Adolescents 103 

to his own learning. In keeping with his medical training, he explored 
relationships between one's physical makeup and one's temperament. 
There was a physical cause for adolescent passions. Because adolescents 
were still growing and the humors were constantly in motion, heat 
abounded within their bodies.^^ To this day, it is unclear whether the 
treatise earned Vergerio a position as Ubertino's tutor. It may have 
simply been one more unsuccessful effort in his search for patronage. 
However, it did prove to be a masterful piece of academic synthesis, 
which touched a responsive chord throughout Renaissance society.'^ 

In antiquity, Pseudo Plutarch had written a treatise on the education 
of boys. Vergerio had now developed educational theory to treat the 
training of adolescents.^'' In so doing, he gave special attention to the 
training of society's governors. And in his most important ideas, he al- 
ways focused on the importance of rhetoric in the curriculum. For Ver- 
gerio, oratory became the matrix of a curriculum for the formation of 
public servants. Rhetorical principles, in turn, shaped the content of the 
treatise. By attempting to fit disciplines to individual needs, Vergerio in- 
vested humanist education with an appropriate sense of decorum. By 
contrasting personal gratification to public utility, he had moral values, 
and not mere expediency, guide educational choices. Vergerio was the 
first in his day to conceptualize stages for education that followed 
human development. Adolescents needed a moral emphasis in their pro- 
gram that was wasted on children. Vergerio's convictions about the im- 
portance of education for the sons of the elite strengthened as he 
watched the tragedy of the Carrara family unfold over the course of the 
next three years. 

^5 Ibid., 101 (cf. Episu, 85), 102, 106, 107, 114, and 131-32 (cf. Epist., 98-99). 

^ Smith, £p«r., xxii-xxiv, 249 n. 1, argued that Vergerio did not receive a position as 
Ubertino's tutor, whereas Calo, "Nota vergeriana," 237-52, took the opposite position. On 
the popularity of the treatise, see Robey, "Humanism and Education," 56-58. 

^^ Henri-Irenee Marrou notes that the "Plutarchan" treatise paid surprisingly little atten- 
tion to schooling per se and focused rather on broader questions of forming character; see 
his A History of Education in Antiquity, George Lamb, trans. (New York: Sheed and Ward, 
1956), 147-48. Cf. the anonymous life of Vergerio published by Smith, Epist., 479. 


Disenchantment at Court 

Among the first reactions to the De ingenuis moribus was a letter to 
Vergerio from Coluccio Salutati, who praised the treatise in 
generic terms for outHning a sound course of studies for adolescents that 
would assist even a mature adult's development. Salutati then offered 
three specific criticisms of Vergerio's work.^ In two instances, the errors 
that Salutati highlighted had resulted from Vergerio's use of a scribe to 
make a copy of the work for Salutati. First, Salutati chided Vergerio for 
incorrectly characterizing Scipio Africanus as nondum pubes, when the 
sources clearly indicated that Scipio was eighteen years old at the mo- 
ment he had rescued his father. Moreover, Salutati complained of Ver- 
gerio's orthography, especially his use of the Greek letter y in words 
like ydoneus znd phylosophia. Vergerio responded by claiming that, after 
checking the sources, he had intended to write vixdum pubes for Scipio. 
In fact, Vergerio did write vixdum; the scribe miscopied his autograph. 
As to orthography, Vergerio noted that he had only annotated the man- 
uscript which he sent to Salutati; in the text itself, his scribe had chosen 
to use y rather than i. Vergerio therefore upbraided Salutati for excessive 
concern to detail when the sense of the text emerged clearly. Both gram- 
mar and usage constituted valid norms for correct spelling, and so Verge- 
rio didn't have to conform to Salutati's rule. 

Vergerio's exasperation toward the end of his response stemmed in 

' Epist, 253-57, for Saluuti's letter, and 257-62, for Vergerio's response. See further 
Ronald G. Win, Hercules at the Crossroads: The Life, Works, and Thought of Coluccio Salutati, 
Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. 
Press, 1983), 237, 287, 292, 400 n. 27, and 420. 

106 CHAPTER 7 

large part from the stinging character of Salutati's most substantial criti- 
cism. Salutati claimed that, in the preface, Vergerio had mistakenly cited 
a corrupt text of Cicero {Sen. 3.8). The textual problem led to an inaccu- 
rate representation of the Athenian statesman, Themistocles. According 
to Salutati, Themistocles had attributed his stature [nobilitas) to Athens, 
his birthplace. Salutati urged Vergerio to correct his text and bluntly 
suggested that it would be better to throw the whole work out than to 
allow it to circulate in its present form.^ Vergerio did little to hide his 
anger at Salutati's reaction. He took Salutati's portrayal of Themistocles 
as personally insulting. Throughout his life, Vergerio remained sensitive 
to the modest character of his own place of birth, Capodistria. Salutati's 
position implied that great men came only from distinguished cities. By 
the end of his response, Vergerio openly charged Salutati with pedant- 

Vergerio felt that Salutati had ignored the fundamental points of his 
treatise and focused upon marginal issues. Salutati accused Vergerio of 
following a textual corruption which one could prove by examining the 
Platonic source from which Cicero had quoted. Vergerio responded 
with irritation to the suggestion about how to proceed in textual mat- 
ters. He reminded Salutati that he had skills which the learned chancel- 
lor did not possess; he had not only consulted the Latin version of Plato 
but the Greek original as well. Still, Vergerio sarcastically observed, he 
preferred to err with Cicero in this instance. That reflected Vergerio's 
Ciceronianism and his sense that the observation of Themistocles in- 
tended to teach that external factors like birthplace did not produce 
human greatness. Athens had produced its fair share of inglorious 
individuals. And, had Themistocles been born in an obscure place like 
Serfo (or Capodistria), he might still have achieved equal fame by 
developing his many talents. Vergerio had just completed a treatise on 
humanist education that emphasized training individual genius, no 
matter where it was found. Salutati had missed the point. The inter- 
change between Vergerio and Salutati was symptomatic of a change in 
Salutati's position among the younger generation of humanists. His 

^ Epist., 256: "Melius est enim totum abicere quam posteris aut praesentibus legendo 
quod reprehendi valeat exhibere." 

' Ibid., 259 ("in contentione praesertim, per quam vel modestissimi solent excitari"), and 
261, where Vergerio likens his situation to that of one preaching before an audience com- 
posed exclusively of clergy who constantly carp on the slightest weakness in the sermon. 
Disgusted, the preacher upbraids his audience with the maxim that an eagle does not bother 
to capture flies. 

Disenchantment at Court 107 

cautious pedantry irritated them as they sought to advance their own 


Vergerio did not carry on the debate any further with Salutati. He 
found his attention riveted upon the political scene at Padua as events 
came to a head for the regime of the Carrara.^ During the spring and 
the summer of 1402, the fortunes of the anti-Visconti coalition reached 
their lowest point. After proving an utter disappointment on the battle- 
field, the mercenary army led by Rupert of the Palatinate, pretender to 
the imperial throne, retreated from Padua to Germany in April, On 26 
June 1402, the coalition's forces suffered a crushing defeat at the battle 
of Casalecchio.^ The defeat was especially costly for Francesco Novello. 
His two eldest sons, Francesco III and Giacomo, were taken prisoner 
during the battle. By early September, Giangaleazzo Visconti had se- 
cured possession of Bologna and encamped outside the walls of Florence. 
If Florence capitulated, there seemed no way to prevent Giangaleazzo 
from creating an Italian monarchy. Everything changed, however, with 
the sudden death of Giangaleazzo in September. His forces retreated 
from Florence shortly thereafter. 

By November of 1402, Padua had cause once again to celebrate. The 
escape of Francesco Novello 's two sons from their Visconti captors sym- 
bolized the reviving fortunes of Padua and the anti-Visconti coalition. 
Vergerio composed a celebratory poem to mark the return of Francesco 
III and Giacomo. As he had done in speeches ten years earlier, he used 
the harmony of the city-state on that occasion to signify the proper rela- 
tionship between the Carrara ruler and the citizenry. Moreover, Verge- 
rio emphasized that the brothers had escaped because of their sound 
physical conditioning. Their daring actions became an endorsement for 
those sections of the De ingenuis moribus where Vergerio had urged that 

* Witt, Hercules, 392-413. 

^ See Hans Baron, The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Re- 
publican Liberty in an Age of Classicism and Tyranny (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 
1955; rev. ed., Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1966), 31-33; Philip J. Jones, The Malatesta 
of Rimini and the Papal State (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), 
115-19; Benjamin G. Kohl, "Government and Society in Renaissance Padua," The Journal 
of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 2 (1972): 214-15; M. Chiara Ganguzza Billanovich, "Car- 
rara, Francesco da, il Novello," D5/ 20:658-60; and Albert Rabil, Jr., "The Significance of 
'Civic Humanism' in the Interpretation of the Italian Renaissance," in Albert Rabil, Jr., ed., 
Humanism in Italy, vol. 1 of Renaissance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, and Legacy (Phila- 
delphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), 145-46. 

^ Casalecchio today compromises a thriving commune situated along the Reno River ap- 
proximately seven kilometers southwest of the city of Bologna. 

108 CHAPTER 7 

the children of princes be skilled in sports such as throwing the javelin 
and swimming/ With the duchy of Milan plunged into turmoil after 
the death of Giangaleazzo, Francesco Novello hoped to exploit Milanese 
weakness and expand his territorial control. However, the Venetian gov- 
ernment blocked his plans, forcing Francesco to make peace with Cate- 
rina Visconti on 7 December 1402. 

Francesco Novello bided his time, while new tensions simmered be- 
tween himself and the Venetian Republic. In the summer of 1403, Fran- 
cesco decided to defy the wishes of the Serenissima and attack Milan. 
Vergerio was entrusted with the task of drafting the official letter to 
Caterina Visconti announcing the opening of hostilities. What may have 
been the only letter that Vergerio wrote on behalf of his long-coveted 
patrons set in motion a process that would destroy their regime.^ Verge- 
rio recapitulated the analysis of Francesco Novello and his advisors on 
foreign policy. The Visconti state was collapsing due to internal unrest 
and attack by the forces of Pope Boniface IX and the imperial pretender 
Rupert. The Carrara thus feared that neighboring states, once under Vi- 
sconti control, might pass into the hands of Venice. To prevent such a 
situation, Padua declared war on Milan. On 21 August 1403, the Carrara 
army seized Brescia but had to abandon the city shortly thereafter. 

Undeterred, Francesco Novello next attempted to reconstruct the 
territorial state his father had once controlled. By March of 1404, he had 
negotiated an alliance with the leaders of the Delia Scala family. Togeth- 
er they planned to reestablish Delia Scala rule in Verona and irestore Vi- 
cenza to Paduan control. In early April, the Delia Scala, accompanied by 
Francesco Novello, forcibly reentered Verona. Venice had already mo- 
bilized an army to stop Francesco Novello, and the Venetian forces beat 
Francesco to Vicenza. In response, Francesco placed his Delia Scala allies 
under arrest and took direct control of Verona. Venice henceforth 
worked for the destruction of the Carrara regime. Efforts by Florence 
to mediate the conflict between the two former allies failed. From May 
of 1404 until November of 1405, Venetian forces steadily closed a vise 
around the city of Padua. With his population starving, Francesco sent 
a delegation to Venice to negotiate a surrender. The Venetians rebuffed 

^ See PPV, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 138-41; Tommaso Casini, "Notizie e 
documenti per la storia della poesia italiana: Tre nuovi rimatori del trecento," II Propugna- 
tore, n.s., 1.2 (1888): 352-55; and Roberto Cessi, "Nuove ricerche su Ognibene Scola," Ar- 
chivio storico lombardo 36, fasc. 23 (1909): 101-2. 

« Epist., 263-67. 

Disenchantment at Court 109 

his overture and only accepted the surrender of the city by a delegation 
of citizens led by Francesco Zabarella. The Venetian authorities had 
Francesco Novello and his son arrested and, in uncompromising fashion, 
strangled the Carrara in prison. 

Francesco Novello's reckless policy of expansion had depleted 
Padua's resources and weakened his regime's popularity to the extent 
that the majority of Paduans welcomed their Venetian conquerors. As 
Padua and Venice engaged in their fateful confrontation, Vergerio wrote 
two works that dealt with the history of the Carrara and, by implica- 
tion, the political situation of his times. They were a series of biogra- 
phies of the Carrara despots (De principibus Carrariensihus) and a reflec- 
tion on the ideal of monarchical government {De monarchia). After 
some debate among scholars, Carmela Marchente established through 
close textual analysis that Vergerio wrote the Carrara biographies.' The 
vocabulary of the lives betrays marked similarities to Vergerio 's favorite 
words and expressions in his letters. Moreover, though relying closely 
on late medieval sources, Vergerio revised their periods to match Cicero- 
nian Latin. 

As Vergerio had always advocated, he made the classicizing style of 
the work serve the substance of his political appraisal. He evaluated the 
conduct of the Carrara on ethical grounds. His study of Plutarch's biog- 
raphies under the tutelage of Manuel Chrysoloras began to yield practi- 
cal fruits. In the final analysis, moreover, the work betrays Vergerio's 
pessimism. Too often, avarice, ambition, and jealousy proved stronger 
than virtue. ^° Though dismissed by commentators in the past as noth- 
ing more than a rehash of existing sources, Vergerio's biographies have 
more recently earned a measure of respect for his critical approach to 
historical sources. Vergerio deleted some material found in his sources 
and reported other matters with a parenthetic expression of skepticism. 
For example, he contemptuously banished the legendary origins of the 
Carrara family to barbaric fantasies from the Dark Ages, and he edited 
out stories of Paduan struggles from an era for which no validating doc- 

' Carmela Marchente, Ricerche intomo at "De principibus Carrariensihus et gestis eorum 
liber" attribuito a Pier Paolo Vergerio seniore, Universita di Padova: Pubblicazioni della Fa- 
colta di lettere e filosofia 23 (Padua: CEDAM, 1946), 43-55. Often revising terminology 
found in the sources, Vergerio resorted to classicizing words like clam, sedulo, torquere/extor- 
quere. Among his characteristic parenthetical expressions, one frequently finds quid/quod at- 
tinet, Non mirum igitur. 

'" For the general influence of Plutarch's biographies, see Vito R. Giustiniani, "Sulle tra- 
duzioni latine delle Vitae di Plutarco nel Quattrocento," Rinascimento, n.s., 1 (1961): 6-8. 

110 CHAPTER 7 

umentation survived. Had the Carrara family continued to rule Padua, 
the work might well have won a place in the pantheon of early human- 
ist historiography.^* 

In evaluating historical causality, Vergerio tended to offer a variety 
of explanations. He used sentences joined by correlative conjunctions 
{sive . . . sive . . . sive) to acknowledge that humans rarely acted with pure 
motives. However, Vergerio did not retreat from stating the motive 
that, in his analysis, carried greatest weight. In the biography of Giaco- 
mino da Carrara (deposed in 1355, d. 1372), Vergerio discussed the plot 
that Giacomino organized to poison his nephew, Francesco il Vecchio, 
with whom he then shared the lordship of Padua. *^ Among the possible 
motives Vergerio first adduced family considerations. Once Giacomino 
had married Margherita Gonzaga in 1353, friction developed between 
her and Francesco's wife, Fina Buzzacarini. Moreover, Margherita had 
soon borne a first son to Giacomino, and Giacomino wanted him to 
inherit the office of despot. Secondly, Vergerio noted that Giacomino 
might well have been jealous of Francesco's success as a military leader; 
though younger than his uncle, Francesco had just been selected to lead 
an army of Padua's allies in war. The most compelling reason, however, 
lay in a simple fact of power politics. Principalities do not long allow 
for equal ruling partners; common sovereignty led to inevitable antago- 
nism between the corulers. The divided house of Carrara could not 

Vergerio sought to derive general principles from specific episodes 
because he believed that history illustrated the precepts of moral philos- 

" Those who downplayed the importance of the treatise include Leonardo Smith, EpisL, 
xx-xxii; Roberto Cessi, "Prefazione," in Gesta magnifica domus Carrariensis, RIS, n.s., 
17.1.2:xxxiii; Marchente, Ricerche, 64-66; and David Robey, "P. P. Vergerio the Elder: Re- 
publicanism and Civic Values in the Work of an Early Italian Humanist," Past and Present, 
no. 58 (February 1973): 20-22, 34-35. For the beginnings of a positive reassessment, see Eric 
Cochrane, Historians and Historiography in the Italian Renaissance (Chicago and London: 
Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981), 71-72. 

'^ PPV, De principibus Carrariensibus, RIS 16:183B-C. The lives treat the following 
members of the Carrara dynasty: Giacomo I (capitaneus et dominus generalis, 1318-20, d. 
1324); Niccolo (d. 1344); Marsilio Grande {signore, 1328, 1337, d. 1338); Ubertino {signore, 
1338, d. 1345); Marsilietto Papafava {signore, 1345); Giacomo 11 {signore, 1345-50); Giaco- 
mino and Francesco il Vecchio {co-signori, 1350-55). 

" Cf. J. K. Hyde, Padua in the Age of Dante (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 
and New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966), 82-83, 275-82; and Benjamin G. Kohl, "Carrara, 
Francesco da, il Vecchio," DBI 20:649-50. In October of 1354, Francesco was named com- 
mander of the forces of a league organized by Venice to combat Archbishop Giovanni Vi- 
sconti of Milan and Francesco d'Este, Visconti's candidate for despot of Ferrara. 

Disenchantment at Court Ul 

ophy. He selected episodes for his biographies that had relevance for 
Padua in his own day. Ideally, the lives would serve Francesco Novello 
as a magister vitae. Carrara rule was born in a context of class conflict, 
which Vergerio illustrated in an anecdote from the life of Giacomo I (d. 
1324), founder of the dynasty. Prior to assuming the office of captain- 
general, Giacomo had once represented a client in a lawsuit. His op- 
posite number was a plebeian advocate who used the opportunity of- 
fered by the trial to denounce the arbitrary power exercised by noble 
members of the Paduan Commune. Having patiently listened to the 
commoner's insults, Giacomo approached him and whispered in his ear 
that he intended to cut out his tongue. That led the commoner to rage 
all the louder and curse his noble adversary for his arrogant contempt 
for the law. 

In the meantime, Giacomo left the courtroom and returned home. 
He ordered his servants to bring a cart, the Carrara family's heraldic 
symbol, and to load it with grain and a pig ready for slaughter. He then 
presented the cart as a gift to his commoner adversary. The commoner 
accepted the gift with thanks and admitted that Giacomo had truly "cut 
out the tongue" which had denounced him. From that day forward, the 
commoner preached the virtues of Giacomo and became a partisan of 
his political faction. ^^ Even prior to his accession as de facto despot, Gia- 
como had set a standard for Carrara rule. The Carrara must be mindful 
of the social tensions between nobility and commoner. They should 
craft domestic policies characterized by beneficence toward the com- 
moners. Nor did their standing give them a license to act as they 
wished. The commoner was right to denounce the nobility for that atti- 
tude. The governing elite must never subject persons through fear but 
conciliate them through benevolence. 

Vergerio further noted that the Carrara had always accepted the role 
of political leadership in the context of a public assembly. The title of 
signore thereby acquired an element of legitimacy. The Carrara rulers 
would maintain public support by a program that assured peace and re- 
spect for the rights of all citizens. In domestic matters, the rulers should 
act in keeping with the generosity that had brought them to power in 

'^ See PPV, De principibus Carranensthus, RIS 16:122C-23A; and Kohl, "Government," 
206-7. The story constitutes a rare case of material that Vergerio did not derive from previ- 
ous sources. On those sources and Vergerio's tendency to synthesize, see Cessi, "Prefa- 
zione," 17.1.2:xxv-xxxiv; and Marchente, Ricerche, 11-37, esp. 35 for the originality of the 
account of Giacomo Grande and the commoner. 

112 CHAPTER 7 

the first place. To illustrate his premise, Vergerio praised specific actions 
undertaken by Ubertino da Carrara (d. 1345). Ubertino had worked to 
complete the circuit of the walls around the city, he had erected the first 
public clock tower, and he had assured an ample supply of grain during 
a famine. He sought to assist the local economy by supporting the 
guilds, especially that of the woolworkers. Finally, he gave support to 
learning by sponsoring the study of twelve students [adolescentes) at the 
University of Paris and by bringing Raniero Arsendi to lecture on law 
at Padua's university. ^^ The Carrara despot must be a beneficent pa- 
tron, filtering his mercy throughout the body politic. 

When Vergerio suggested that the Carrara should foster peace and re- 
spect for the rights of all citizens, he also meant that they must repress 
the factionalism that had continually plagued communal government. 
Carrara ascendancy had been tied to their opposition to the brutality of 
the faction led by the Altichini and Ronchi families. In April of 1314, a 
street battle erupted between supporters of the two factions. Once the 
Carrara had won victory, they opened the jails to release Padua's politi- 
cal prisoners. To dramatize the evils of factionalism, Vergerio vividly 
described the revolting scene that greeted the liberators. The jail was a 
living hell filled with the putrid odor of the rotting bodies of the dead 
piled up everywhere. Those prisoners still alive were emaciated from 
hunger and covered with wounds from torture. Some were chained, 
while others had gags made of blocks of wood. Rather than guarantee 
free expression, the republican system had led to its brutal repression. ^^ 

Four years later, a new outbreak of factionalism within the oligarchy 
again threatened the city. The city's governors were divided over the 
strategy needed to counter the threat posed by Cangrande della Scala, 
the despot of Verona. The Carrara managed to parlay their popular sup- 
port and their reputation for commitment to the common good into a 
defeat of their Maccaruffi opponents. In 1318, Giacomo da Carrara was 
given the title of captain and lord-general. Throughout the biographies, 
Vergerio depicted Carrara rule at its best when the family leadership 
managed to stand above petty factionalism and engender consensus 
among Padua's more powerful citizens. His reading of politics also con- 
tained realistic warnings. When factional fighting broke out between 

'5 PPV, Deprincipibus Carrariensihus, RIS 16:166A, 168B, 170E-71B. 

'^ See PPV, De principibus Carrariensihus, RIS 16:134C-D ("aliivero immisso faucibus 
ligno, ne quid eloqui possent, etiam tunc aperto ore cemebantur hiantes"); and Hyde, Padua 
in the Age of Dante, 263-67. 

Disenchantment at Court 113 

members of the elite, the common people simply sided with the victori- 
ous faction. The crowd's instinct to back a winner meant that the Car- 
rara must be vigilant to maintain their place as first among equals. ^^ 

For Vergerio, no political factor had proven more capricious than 
popular support, and no form of factionalism had caused graver prob- 
lems than a battle for supremacy within the Carrara family. Vergerio re- 
corded that Giacomo Grande had warned his children on his deathbed 
that only concord within the family would preserve the political pres- 
tige {dignitas) that they had attained. Discord, on the other hand, would 
corrupt or even destroy that prestige. His warning was not always 
heeded. After Giacomo's death, Niccolo da Carrara unsuccessfully chal- 
lenged Marsilio for leadership of the family and the state. The outbreak 
of political violence coincided with a wave of petty extortion which idle 
young men perpetrated against wealthy citizens of Padua. Vergerio jux- 
taposed the forms of violence to imply that the adolescent behavior in 
both instances sprang from a lust to dominate. When Vergerio dealt 
with the assassination of Marsilietto Papafava da Carrara (d. 1345) by 
Giacomo II and Giacomino, he covered the realpolitik of the assassins 
with an ethical veneer. Vergerio felt that Marsilietto would inevitably 
see Giacomo II as a threat to his position because Giacomo had the 
moral probity which Marsilietto never attained. Giacomo II therefore 
acted out of justifiable fear for his own safety rather than out of ambi- 
tion. Vergerio also saw the assassination as a sound lesson in power poli- 
tics: Julius Caesar had rightly argued that, if rights must be violated, 
they should be violated for the sake of ruling. ^^ 

For Vergerio, no member of the Carrara line was more intriguing 
than Ubertino da Carrara (d. 1345).^' As a young man, Ubertino had ex- 

17 PPY ^ De principibus Carrariensibus, RIS 16:160E-61A: "Nam in contentione nobilium 
vulgi favor in earn se partem inclinare solet, penes quam victoria certaminis [RIS: certa 
minus] stetit." 

'« PPV, De prtncipibus Carrariensthus, RIS 16:143C-44D, 162D-E, 174D-75E. Vergerio 
illustrated the ways in which Giacomo II manifested his political acumen by consolidating 
his control of Padua after the assassination. He arrested the members of Marsilietto's family 
and imprisoned those members of the regime who had opposed him. He appointed new 
podesta for the outlying towns, and he had the soldiers swear an oath of loyalty to himself. 
In terms of largesse, he freed two hundred prisoners from prison and declared a general 
amnesty, allowing the political exiles to return. So successful were his actions that the 
government sponsored a palio on the anniversary of his accession. That race, in turn, helped 
to maintain popular support for the regime. Later in his reign, Giacomo II had to confront 
a plot led by the Da Lozzo brothers, in whom he had placed special trust. He handed the 
conspirators over to the podesta to assure impartial justice and limited pimishment to the 
leaders of the coup attempt. See ibid. 16:175E-76C, 177C-78B. 

" PPV, De principibus Carrariensibus, RIS 16:158D-72C. Ubertino's change of heart was 

114 CHAPTER 7 

hibited the worst qualities of adolescence— lust and rage. Vergerio lacon- 
ically noted that Ubertino had contracted a painful disease "caused by 
overuse of his genital member," With the help of a friend, he had mur- 
dered Guglielmo Dente, a member of a powerful noble family and a 
rival for the love of a courtesan. Exiled for the crime, Ubertino threat- 
ened to support Cangrande della Scala, Padua's worst enemy. The Dente 
family, meanwhile, sought revenge by plotting to overthrow the Car- 
rara. The plot erupted in a battle on Padua's streets, and the Dente were 
eventually defeated. The family leader fled Padua, a mob sacked his 
home, and Ubertino took advantage of the turmoil to return from exile. 
He immediately sought revenge against Pollione Beccadelli, the podesta 
who had ordered his punishment. Beccadelli was murdered by a mob 
who supported Ubertino, and all public records that might incriminate 
him were burned. With similar bravado, Ubertino managed to outma- 
neuver Niccolo da Carrara and succeed Marsilio Grande as despot in 

His initial actions as a ruler indicated that he had no intention of 
moderating his ruthless ways. Vergerio attributed Ubertino's success to 
a skillful combination of forcefulness and cunning. In a campaign against 
the Della Scala forces for control of Monselice, both sides distinguished 
themselves for cruelty. While the Della Scala commander ordered Car- 
rara prisoners hanged from the walls of the city in full view of the be- 
sieging army, Ubertino summarily executed his prisoners and had his 
soldiers disfigure the women fleeing the siege and then return them to 
the city. After Ubertino finally tricked Fiorello da Lucca into surrender- 
ing the citadel, he executed Fiorello and punished his soldiers by cutting 
off an ear. However, the victory at Monselice signaled a fundamental 
change in Ubertino's approach to governance. He forbade the use of 
force under any circumstances and enjoined his supporters against exact- 
ing revenge for injury. Vergerio felt that Ubertino had begun to move 
beyond the license of adolescence. Yet he remained a leader who prefer- 
red to be feared rather than loved. Though he enriched the physical and 
cultural life of the city, he pursued his enemies with vigor. A patrician 
who denounced Ubertino in the Venetian Senate ended up being 
drugged, kidnapped, and ferried to Padua, where he was forced into a 
humiliating apology. On his deathbed, Ubertino told his confessor that 

also noted by Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna; see his De regimine principum, Siena, Bibl. 
Comunale degli Intronati, cod. G.X.33, fol. 146v. 

Disenchantment at Court 115 

he felt no remorse for any of his past actions, which had increased his 
family's power. In fact, he was ready to do them all over again. To 
prove his point, he then forced the confessor to absolve him. 

Vergerio also paid close attention to the foreign policy of the Car- 
rara, as his recounting of the war between the Delia Scala and Ubertino 
da Carrara and the episode with the Venetian patrician attest. The Car- 
rara had come to power during a dispute between noble factions as to 
what policy to adopt before the threat of Cangrande della Scala (1291- 
1329). During the lordship of Marsilio Grande (1328-1338), the family 
had only succeeded in retaining a measure of control by surrendering 
the city peacefully to Cangrande. For two reasons, Vergerio felt that 
Marsilio had made a shrewd decision. First, Marsilio knew that his uncle 
Giacomo had been forced to abdicate his office of dominus generalis 
under threat from Paduan exiles who had sided with Cangrande. Second- 
ly, given the difference in strength between Padua and Verona, it would 
have been suicidal to attempt to retain absolute control. Better to accept 
a role as Cangrande 's vicar for the city rather than lose everything in a 
hopeless defense of liberty.^° 

Further lessons garnered from the years of Marsilio's rule reinforce 
the sense that Della Scala Verona functioned for Vergerio as a regional 
power analogous to Venice at the beginning of the fifteenth century. 
Once allied with the Della Scala, Marsilio discharged sensitive duties for 
them. For example, Marsilio hanged the German mercenaries who had 
violated his orders not to plunder the countryside. The insubordinate 
conduct of the Germans proved how unreliable mercenary troops were. 
Subsequently, Marsilio had been caught in the middle of Della Scala 
gambits to increase their territorial control well beyond the Veneto. 
Mastino della Scala (1308-1351) and his brother Alberto (1306-1352) had 
allied Verona with Florence because both city-states wished to attack the 
Rossi family, who controlled Parma and Lucca. If the alliance succeeded 
militarily, then each member would gain territory. However, after cap- 
turing Parma in 1335 with the aid of Florentine troops, the Della Scala 
betrayed the Florentines by attempting to force Lucca to surrender to 
Verona. Vergerio then demonstrated that the "insatiable cupidity" [insa- 
tiabilis humana cupiditas) of the Della Scala proved self-destructive. In 

^ See PPV, De principihus Carrariensibus, RIS 16:123B, 125D-26E (126D: "Ceterum vir 
prudens non quod vulgo placeret sed quod utilitati publicae conduceret advertebat. Summa 
igitur vi atque omni studio curabat, ut quae inita pax fuerat servaretur"); and Hyde, Padua 
in the Age of Dante, Kid-ll. 

116 CHAPTER 7 

anger, Florence made a secret alliance with Venice, and the republican 
powers aided Marsilio in freeing himself from Delia Scala overlordship. 
In a victory speech, as reconstructed by Vergerio, Marsilio thanked the 
legates of Florence and Venice for their assistance and unabashedly 
linked Padua's liberty to his despotism.^^ Padua found herself on a chess- 
board on which more powerful pieces maneuvered. 

Consequently, Vergerio portrayed Giacomo II (d. 1350) as an adept 
practitioner of a foreign policy guided by the best interests of the 
Paduan people. Giacomo had offered Padua a moment to prosper by 
signing peace accords with the neighboring rulers. He had personally 
visited Mastino della Scala to negotiate an accord with Verona and had 
also reached an agreement with Obizzo d'Este in Ferrara. He especially 
concerned himself to maintain a harmonious relationship with Venice 
after he and his descendants were named honorary citizens of the repub- 
lic in January of 1346. Giacomo made Padua an active supporter of 
Venetian foreign policy by providing troops for Venetian campaigns, in- 
cluding the one in September of 1348 to quell a revolt in Capodistria. 
Moreover, he had come to the rescue of the Venetian government dur- 
ing a famine by supplying needed grain.^^ Vergerio seems to have intend- 
ed a clear message for Francesco Novello. He should seek peace in order 
to assure stability for Padua. He should reckon honestly with the re- 
gion's powers: better to surrender a measure of autonomy in order to 
save the despotism. He should not break an alliance, nor could he rely 
Dn foreign mercenaries for help were he to antagonize his powerful 
neighbor. Moreover, he should beware lest his aggressive foreign policy 
lead to divisions within the ruling elite and within his own family.^ 

Vergerio's series of biographies ended abruptly with Giacomo II. He 
never discussed the reigns of Francesco il Vecchio or Francesco Novello, 
nor did his veiled warnings have the desired effect of saving the Carrara. 
The Venetian victory spared him further research. However, the biogra- 

^' See PPV, De principibus Carrariensibus, RIS 16:151C, 152E-53D, 154D-57B (esp. 
156E-57A: "Nunc vero demum, frustratis illorum molitionibus urbeque auxilio Dei / et 
Venetorum Florentinorumque cura ac studio liberata, denuo se principem electum, tamquam 
non videretur urbi quaesita vera libertas nisi et ipse princeps esset libertatis"); and Gian 
Maria Varanini, "Delia Scala, Mastino," DBI 37:445-48. 

^ See PPV, De principibus Carrariensibus, RIS 16:176C-77C; and M. Chiara Ganguzza 
Billanovich, "Carrara, Giacomo da," DBI 20:674. 

^' In March of 1405, Francesco Novello's brother Giacomo (ca. 1350-1405) reached an 
accord with Venice to betray Padua. See M. Chiara Ganguzza Billanovich, "Carrara, Fran- 
cesco da, il Novello," DBI 20:659-60; and Ganguzza Billanovich, "Carrara, Giacomo da," 
ibid. 20:676. 

Disenchantment at Court 117 

phies gave Vergerio a chance to reflect in more systematic fashion on 
the strengths and weaknesses of monarchical government. In theory, 
Vergerio thought that monarchy was the best form of government. 
Even so, he placed strict conditions on what he meant by monarchy. 
Though the treatise bears a subtitle "On the Best Principate," the work 
actually focuses upon the best prince. Throughout, Vergerio emphasized 
the character of the ruler, and not the structure of government, as the 
determining factor in successful politics. As the Carrara dynasty slowly 
expired, Vergerio became more pessimistic about the possibility of real- 
izing his political ideals.^* 

The monarchical government that Vergerio proposed as an ideal 
must be governed by a morally upright ruler. The city-state which he 
administers should be peacefully settled through written laws, to which 
the ruler freely subjects himself. Ideally, that state would enjoy social 
harmony among its various classes and would arrange its relations with 
other states in order to live in a world at peace. Only in that case would 
the analogy with divine rulership of the universe be fully realized. 
Those theoretical principles clashed with historical evidence. When Ver- 
gerio examined the first two dynasties of the Roman Empire, he found 
more evil rulers (the young Octavian, the elder Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, 
and Domitian) than those he might fairly characterize as upright (the el- 
der Octavian, the young Titus, and Vespasian when he controlled his 
avarice). The worst situation ensued when a ruler gave free rein to his li- 
bidinous appetites and tyrannized weaker subjects.^^ 

If monarchy in its historical manifestations had proven so disappoint- 
ing, then why not advocate the rule of many? Vergerio claimed that, 
when improperly ordered, republics represented the worst evil; even 
when peacefully settled, republics still accomplished little good. By im- 
properly ordered, he meant a situation in which magistracies were open 
to all citizens. Such a situation rendered the state sordid, imprudent, and 
weak. If magistracies were restricted to the worthy, then the state was 
afflicted by class struggle between patricians and plebeians. The constant 

^^ See Baron, Crisis, rev. ed., 129-34; Robey, "Republicanism," 17-22; David Robey and 
John Law, "The Venetian Myth and the De republica veneta of Pier Paolo Vergerio," Rina- 
scimento, n.s., 15 (1975): 33-35; and Quentin Skinner, The Renaissance, vol. 1 of The Founda- 
tions of Modem Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978), 124. 

^ PPV, De monarchia, EpisL, 447-48: "Ex adverso autem nihil esse deterius potest quam 
cum in unius perditi hominis libidine collata sunt capita multorum, et pemiciosae voluntati 
iuncta est facultas nocendi. . . . Sub hoc esse tuta cuiusquam salus poterat, defensa pudicitia, 
aut securae cuiusquam fortunae?" 

118 CHAPTER 7 

State of violence inevitably led the citizens of an ordered republic to 
turn to rule by one person. The history of an Italian commune like 
Padua proved the point for Vergerio. Couldn't a code of just laws re- 
press civic violence in a republic? Vergerio used two metaphors to ex- 
press his diffidence toward the efficacy of rule by law. Much like a 
spider web, laws tend to catch only the weak. Morever, much like 
parchment, laws may be stretched or shrunk according to the will of 
judges. Laws generally served the interests of the dominant class. Verge- 
rio thought that a state needed a ruler above the laws who might ensure 
that no one acted with impunity in violating basic rights or written 

Vergerio then offered his revised version of a famous account of the 
origins of political civilization, an account that Isocrates conceived and 
Cicero popularized. Vergerio's version comprised a skeletal outline for 
an anthropology of human nature, premised upon the principle that hu- 
man beings by nature were more prone to evil than good. From a savage 
state in the wilderness, human beings ultimately evolved toward forms 
of urban civilization under the leadership of a natural aristocracy. Due 
to their virtue, those aristocrats were recognized as "leading citizens" 
(principes) within the nascent political community. Over time, however, 
the aristocracy shifted the criterion for membership from one's worth 
as a person to one's line of birth. According to Vergerio, the dynastic 
principle diluted the effectiveness of the governing elite. Nothing guar- 
anteed that the child of a prince would achieve his father's greatness. 
The child was an unproven talent. 

That anthropological pattern had revealed itself in the history of the 
Italian city-states of Vergerio's era. Those city-states had turned to des- 
pots to end the brutish violence caused by factions within the commune. 
To restore a humane order, the cities had chosen despots who had 
proven their worth in war and civic affairs. By and large, most of the 
original despots had successfully renewed social concord by crushing fac- 
tionalism. However, problems soon arose when authority passed from 
the father to the son. Raised within the permissive environment of the 
court, the children often defamed themselves and their family by their 
cruelty and lust.^'^ History offered only the slightest hope for a change 

^^ Ibid., 448-49. 

^ Ibid., 449-50: "Ac simili quidem mcxlo fieri solet, ut, cum quis virtute ac gloria mili- 
tari magnum aliquando regnum adeptus est, aut, moderatione prudentiaque praestans, ad tol- 
lendas seditiones tumultusque ab suis civibus in principem electus est, ille pruVdenter, sin- 

Disenchantment at Court 119 

of heart on the part of spoiled children. The elder Octavian, once estab- 
lished as emperor of Rome, had quit the violent ways of his adolescence. 
Likewise, Vergerio recalled his study of Ubertino da Carrara, in whom 
public responsibility had reawakened a modicum of conscience.^* 

The complex character of the elder Ubertino da Carrara proved to 
Vergerio the need for an educational program like the one that he had 
drafted for the younger Ubertino da Carrara. Proper training of the ado- 
lescent children of a prince might compensate for the inherent weakness 
of the dynastic system. Yet Vergerio 's combined efforts in educational 
theory {De ingenuis morihus), history {De principihus Carrariensibus), and 
political theory {De monarchia) did not alter the mistaken policies of the 
Carrara dynasty. Aware of the precarious state of Carrara rule, Vergerio 
took steps to protect himself if he had to leave Padua. He established 
contact with Carlo Zeno, the famous Venetian admiral, after Zeno had 
married a widow who was the mother of two of Vergerio's distant 
cousins. When Zeno defeated the fleet of the redoubtable Marechal Bou- 
cicault in the autunm of 1403, Vergerio celebrated his victory in a pan- 
egyrical letter. Ever in search of patronage, Vergerio also recruited Zeno 
to testify to his respect for Venice. When Padua and Venice went to 
war, Vergerio found himself in the delicate position of a former resident 
of the Venetian Empire who now lived within the orbit of a court in 
open conflict with Venice.^ 

Probably in those same years, Vergerio tried to have a friend inter- 
cede for him at the court of Ladislas of Naples. Vergerio listed his cre- 
dentials in the arts, in medicine, and in civil and canon law, a combina- 

cere, sobrie publicam rem administret; filii vero, ut sunt plerumque parentibus absimiles, 
favore potentiaque parentum praesuntes succedant, harumque artium ignari omni crudelita- 
tis ac libidinis scelere se contaminent." 

^ Ibid., 450: "Audivimus de Ubertino nuper, qui, cum antea complices multos ac mini- 
stros scelerum haberet, dominus factus seorsum eos evocavit atque admonuit ut ab his absti- 
nerent: hactenus se in omnem rem comitem, posthac aequum principem praestiturum; de 
his, quae antea gesta essent, nuUam se rationem habiturum; in futurum, ne quid admitterent, 
providerent. Eos igitur, qui ab solitis vitiis abstinere non possent, male habuit; ceteros, ut 
dignum aequumque fuit, coluit." The parallel passage in the lives {RIS 16:164A-B) reads 
"Convocatis enim amicis ac ministris his, qui omnis suae vitae rerumque omnium conscii 
et comites fuerant, 'Hactenus,' inquit, 'ita in hac urbe, ut in re aliena versati sumus; nunc 
nostram [RIS: nostrum] decet ut tueamur. Vi quicquam, aut per iniuriam fieri veto. Esto ius 
aequum omnibus: quod quis vestrum exoptat sibi praecipuum dari vel fieri, a me id petat; 
si secus egerit, minime placabilem sibi experietur Ubertinum. Quoque mihi carior quisque 
est, CO sibi magis prospicere iubeo.' " 

^ EpisL, 251-53, 269-73. On Zeno's victory, see also Frederic C. Lane, Venice: A Mari- 
time Republic (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973), 199-200. 

120 CHAPTER 7 

tion of studies that he feh made him unique among scholars. Lest there 
be any doubt concerning his academic credentials, he again passed public 
examinations and graduated from the University of Padua in early 1405. 
He could now go elsewhere with documentary proof of his achieve- 
ments.'° During his last years in Padua, Vergerio strengthened his cre- 
dentials in ways attractive to the clerical elite. He had almost certainly 
become a cleric before he accepted a benefice in 1404. Moreover, he at- 
tended the lectures of Francesco Zabarella on canon law at the Univer- 
sity of Padua, becoming a doctor in both branches of jurisprudence.^^ 
As the Carrara regime collapsed and no other political opportunity pre- 
sented itself, Vergerio explored the patronage network of the Church. 
For years, in public panegyrics, Vergerio had offered Saint Jerome as a 
exemplar of a humanist scholar who put his talents at the service of be- 

'° Epist., 125 n. 1, 274-75; and Leonardo Smith, "Note cronologiche vergeriane, III-V," 
Archivto veneto, ser. 5, 4 (1928): 92-96. 

'' Smith, Epist., xxiv, 274 n. 2; and Annalisa Belloni, Pro/essori giuristi a Padova nel 
secolo XV: Profili bio-bihliografici e cattedre, lus Commune: Studien zur europaischen 
Rechtsgeschichte 28 (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1986), 89-90, 204-208. 


Humanism's Patron Saint 

Throughout the last decade of the fourteenth century and into the 
fifteenth, Pierpaolo Vergerio fulfilled to the best of his ability the 
vow he had made to preach a sermon in honor of Jerome on the saint's 
feast day (30 September). When Vergerio was unable to deliver a public 
sermon, he substituted a letter in praise of Jerome, which he sent to 
family members or intimate friends.^ Jerome's feast should never pass 
without due acknowledgment. Of the ten sermons that survive, only 
three may be assigned precise dates. Two of the three were delivered 
after Vergerio had left Padua to join the Papal Court in 1405. They are 
best treated later in the context of his activities at the court. An Oxford 
manuscript of Vergerio's works indicates that he also preached a sermon 
at Padua in 1392. It has not been possible to determine the precise 
sequence of the other seven sermons. Nevertheless, the sermons develop 
consistent themes which reflect Vergerio's deepening appreciation that 
Jerome might well serve as a patron for humanist studies without 
detracting from his further achievements as a Christian confessor. The 
sermons therefore lend themselves to a synchronic treatment at this 
juncture in Vergerio's career.^ 

' Epist., 91-93, 184-87. For the vow, see ibid., 93, and Sermo 5: "decrevi singulo anno 
dum vixero laudes Hieronymi et praeclara merita in conventu optimorum recensere." 

^ See Leonardo Smith, Epist., 91-93 n. 1; and David Robey, "P. P. Vergerio the Elder: 
Republicanism and Civic Values in the Work of an Early Italian Humanist," Past and 
Present, no. 58 (February 1973): 27-28, 36-37. Robey, 27, argued on the basis of the imma- 
turity of the style and the hesitant approach to the subject matter that the 1392 oration was 
"the earliest extant and possibly the first in the series." In that sermon, however, Vergerio 
spoke of "his frequent citation" of a famous passage from one of Jerome's letters ("suo 
verbo quod crebro a me cum fit sermo de Hieronymo repetitum est . . ."). In a letter that 

122 CHAPTER 8 

In addition to the sermon at Padua, Vergerio also delivered two 
sermons in the general vicinity of his hometown of Capodistria. When 
he had no better alternative, he spent the summer recess at home and 
then returned to Padua for the beginning of the academic year in 
mid-October. Such a schedule meant that he might well be in Capodis- 
tria for Jerome's feast. Though Vergerio knew that Jerome's birthplace 
of Stridon had once existed in that area of the Roman Empire, he 
publicly stated his skepticism that Stridon should be identified with 
Sdregna in the diocese of Capodistria. Given the similarities in orthogra- 
phy and pronunciation, popular imagination, always an unreliable 
source for Vergerio, had facilely identified the places. Yet Sdregna's 
location poorly matched Jerome's description of "a fortified town at the 
border between Dalmatia and Pannonia." Vergerio rebelled against any 
attempt to reduce Jerome to a purely local, ethnic hero. Jerome had 
distinguished himself as a champion of Latin culture, a learned citizen of 
a world empire.^ Any attempt to diminish that status represented a 
myopic provincialism which made light of Jerome's willingness to 
move. Vergerio felt that Jerome's example had relevance for a broad 
range of audiences. 

To his credit, Vergerio succeeded in taking his message about Jerome 
into a variety of settings: churches, public squares, and monasteries. In 
keeping with classical principles for rhetoric, Vergerio tailored his 
message to the specific audience at hand. The character of that audience 
helps to explain the message that Vergerio emphasized. On at least three 

was probably written in 1394, or 1395 at the latest, Vergerio indicated that he had already 
given three sermons on Jerome {Epist., 91-93). Therefore, he began to preach the sermons 
around the time that he had returned to Padua in 1391. 

^ Sermo 6: "Monstratur enim in proximo Sdregna, rus tenue ac paucis incolis habitatum, 
unde lumen hoc ortum memorant quod longe lateque fidem Christianam illustravit. Credi- 
bilem rem efficit vulgaris opinio a maioribus quasi per manus tradita et nominis corrupti, 
ut dicunt, similitude quaedam, tametsi cetera parum conveniant. Nam ex oppido Stridonis 
historiae natum perhibent quod olim Dalmatiae Pannoniaeque confinia tenuit et a Gothis 
eversum est [Hieronymus De viris illustribus 135, PL 23:755]." See further Epist., 145-46: 
"quem Qerome] non procul a patriae meae finibus humilis locus sed hoc uno plurimis am- 
plissimis urbibus / praestans edidit." Sermo 3 was also delivered before individuals whom 
Vergerio characterized as his fellow citizens living near Jerome's presumed place of birth. 
On Stridon, see Germain Morin, "La patrie de saint Jerome; le missorium d'Exsuperius: 
deux retractions necesszWes," Revue Benedictin 38 (1926): 217-18; J. N. D. KeWy, Jerome: His 
Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York et al.: Harper & Row, 1975), 3-5; and Giuseppe 
Cuscito, Cristianesimo antico ad Aquileia e in Istria, Fonti e studi per la storia della Venezia 
Giulia: Studi, n.s., 3 (Trieste: Deputazione di storia patria per la Venezia Giulia, 1977), 233- 
38. Cuscito argues that neither the Italian Sdregna/Stregna nor the Slavic Zrenj/Zrinj can de- 
rive from the Latin Strido. 

Humanism's Patron Saint 123 

occasions, Vergerio preached before an assembly of monks; once he 
arranged the ceremony in the early evening because at that hour the 
monks were free from work and from recitation of the Divine Office/ 
To monks, Vergerio often presented a Jerome who was a champion 
among ascetics. Furthermore, Vergerio paid close attention to the 
general reaction of his varied listeners, acknowledging widespread 
disdain among them for his consciously innovative methods. He dis- 
cerned three distinct groups within the large crowds he usually ad- 
dressed. The illiterate common people came primarily for the spectacle 
and only took notice of unusual words or gestures. A larger group, 
which Vergerio estimated to comprise the majority, focused upon 
matters of style, especially decorum. Ever the doctrinaire guardians of 
orthodox preaching, they debated whether Vergerio uttered an inappro- 
priate phrase or sentence. Vergerio also felt that a few of his listeners 
had actually come with an open mind and learned from what he had to 
say.^ Cognizant of the challenge, Vergerio approached his panegyrics as 
an educational activity. Through his praise of select activities of Jerome, 
he wished to enhance the moral sensibilities of his listeners; he knew full 
well that his style of preaching would be criticized by many. Vergerio 
compounded the problem by lionizing controversial aspects of Jerome's 

-From the beginning of the fourteenth century, Jerome had become 
the object of a popular cult in Italy .^ In the first decades of the century, 
an enterprising forger, perhaps a Dominican friar associated with the 

* Sermons 1, 5, and 10 were certainly delivered to monastic audiences. In Sermo 5, Ver- 
gerio observes: "Nunc autem vesperi a me evocati convenistis. . . ." Groups of Hieronymites 
lived in Padua and in Venice already in the last decade of the fourteenth century; see Daniel 
Russo, Saint Jerome en Italie: Etude d'iconographie et de spiritualite. Images a I'Appui 2 (Paris: 
Decouverte, and Rome: Ecole fran^aise, 1987), 130-39. In 1406, while Vergerio worked at 
the Papal Court, Pope Innocent VII issued a bull approving the Hermits of Saint Jerome of 
Fiesole; see Eugene Rice, Saint Jerome in the Renaissance (Baltimore and London: Johns 
Hopkins Univ. Press, 1985), 70. 

* Epist., 93: "Solebam ad populum dicere, quo semper ingens de illius rebus laudibusque 
auditura turba veniebat; multi praeterea indocti qui nudas voces gestusque notarent, plurimi 
qui dicendi tantum genus adverterent arguerentque, si quid ineptius excidisset, aliqui fortasse, 
si mihi liceat, qui ediscerent." 

' See Millard Meiss, "Scholarship and Penitence in the Early Renaissance: The Image of 
St. Jerome," in The Painter's Choice: Problems in the Interpretation of Renaissance Art (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1976), 189-97; Kict, Jerome in the Renaissance, 49-83; Russo, Saint 
Jerome, 37-65, 117-48; and John Henderson, "Penitence and the Laity in Fifteenth-Century 
Florence," in Timothy Verdon and John Henderson, eds., Christianity and the Renaissance: 
Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento (Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1990), 

124 CHAPTER 8 

circle of canons at Saint Mary Major in Rome, had drafted three letters 
which he attributed to contemporaries of Jerome. The letters sought to 
fill gaps in Jerome's biography, narrating the holiness of his death and 
the miracles that he had performed before and after that death. With 
their tales of great wonders, the letters aroused strong emotions in the 
popular imagination. By midcentury, Giovanni d' Andrea (loannes 
Andreae), a professor of canon law at the University of Bologna, had 
given the cult a further injection of vitality. Dismayed by the lack of 
reverence for Jerome in Italy and stirred by the precedent of the forged 
letters, Giovanni d'Andrea composed a work entitled the Hieronymia- 
nuSy the work included biographical material on Jerome and extensive 
recommendations for fostering his cult. Giovanni urged Italians to show 
their devotion by naming their children for Jerome or by building 
churches in his honor. The second half of the fourteenth century 
witnessed the institutionalization of this flowering cult. Five new 
congregations of vowed religious men were founded in Italy and in 
Spain, all of them dedicated to Jerome. Despite differences in emphasis, 
the spirituality of the Hieronymite congregations had several common 
characteristics. The congregations focused largely upon penitential 
exercises; their founders were often merchants who had spurned a life of 
profiteering to embrace an austere form of hermetic asceticism. Only 
after attracting followers did that initial impulse to the life of a hermit 
evolve toward a more communal form of religious life. In addition, the 
members of the Hieronymite orders lived a life of rigorous poverty and 
often rejected priesthood. Consistent with their ascetic impulse, the 
Hieronymites were hostile toward education and secular culture. 

Thus, the first wave of the Renaissance cult of Jerome cherished the 
saint primarily as a wonder-worker and an ascetic. The revival of 
devotion to Jerome in Western Europe coincided with the advance of 
the Turks in the eastern Mediterranean. After the last stronghold of the 
Latin kingdom of Jerusalem had fallen to the Turks in 1291, a legend 
began to circulate regarding the transfer of Jerome's relics from the 
Holy Land to the Church of Saint Mary Major in Rome. Inspired by 
the purported presence of Jerome in Rome, the aforementioned forger 
drafted accounts of the miracles that Jerome had performed for centuries 
on behalf of his devotees. Freed from the technical language of Scholas- 
tic theology, those accounts taught principles of Catholic doctrine to a 
popular audience. For example, one of Jerome's miracles served to 
demonstrate the existence of purgatory. Tapping currents of spirituality 
already fostered by the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hieronymite congrega- 

Humanism's Patron Saint 125 

tions married self-abnegation to a rigorous practice of poverty. Howev- 
er, the Hieronymites placed those practices under the patronage of 
Jerome, a patristic hero canonized by the Church. Unlike the Spiritual 
Franciscans, then, the Hieronymites ingratiated themselves to church 
authorities and quickly received official approval. The ascetic emphasis 
of their cult took visual form as well. Images of the penitent Jerome 
who beat his breast while praying in the wilderness replaced the icono- 
graphic tradition of Jerome as a learned doctor. Jerome now meditated 
on the cross and on the impurities of his soul, far removed from his 
study filled with books. 

In keeping with his personal experience and his humanist studies, 
Vergerio offered his era a richer picture of Jerome. Vergerio closely 
associated the saint with the formative experiences of his childhood. In 
reponse to divine largesse, Vergerio's family offered a banquet on his 
feast for the local poor and for members of the extended family. Jerome 
handsomely repaid the family's devotion by protecting them during the 
exile caused by the War of Chioggia.^ Nourished in an environment 
that saw the family as honored clients of a powerful heavenly patron, 
Vergerio committed himself to a public act of devotion for the rest of 
his life. His sermons and letters in praise of Jerome were the fruit of 
that commitment. Vergerio sought to foster a broader cult of Jerome 
which would make him the patron saint of humanist studies.* No 
enemy of learning, Vergerio's Jerome rather testified to the value of 
humanist learning for scriptural exegesis and for an authentically catho- 
lic piety. In keeping with recent traditions, Vergerio's Jerome also 
exemplified the value of asceticism. But, in Vergerio's depiction, that 
asceticism did not spring from a merchant's feelings of guilt and a 
concomitant need to atone for profiteering. It sprang rather from 
Vergerio's concern for interior freedom, which acquired authentic 
expression when one rejected the enslaving urges toward lust and 
self-aggrandizement. Vergerio used his portrait of Jerome to support his 
convictions about the value of rhetorical education based upon classical 
standards and to advance certain proposals for church reform. All of 

' See Sermo 5 and Epist., 186-87. The relevant passages are translated and discussed at 
greater length in chapter 1 above. 

* John M. McManamon, "Innovation in Early Humanist Rhetoric: The Oratory of Pier 
Paolo Vergerio the Elder," Rinascimento, n.s., 22 (1982): 24-27; and McManamon, "Pier 
Paolo Vergerio (the Elder) and the Beginnings of the Hiunanist Cult of Jerome," The Catho- 
lic Historical Review 71 (1985): 356-63. 

126 CHAPTER 8 

those thoughts deepened from 1390 to 1405, as he continued to pursue 
his various degree studies and he personally came to know the heart of 
church government in Rome. 

Vergerio praised Jerome for his knowledge of letters (peritia litter- 
arum); that education made it possible for him to serve the Church in 
valuable ways. By letters, Vergerio meant proficiency first of all in the 
Latin language, and then in Greek and Hebrew. His Hnguistic ability 
made him an astute philologist. Vergerio also meant eloquence, in which 
Jerome attained the standard of excellence set centuries earlier by 
Cicero.^ Nor did Vergerio evade the controversial character of Jerome's 
humanist learning. On one occasion prior to his permanent move to the 
Papal Court in 1405 and repeatedly thereafter, Vergerio discussed 
Jerome's famous "dream." In a widely circulated letter, Jerome had 
described an ecstatic experience during which he felt himself lifted up to 
heaven. There, despite pleas of innocence, Jerome found himself con- 
demned before the heavenly tribunal as a Ciceronian. ^° Vergerio inter- 
preted the dream as a warning to Jerome that he change his focus of 
study. Humanist learning should provide the skills necessary to under- 
take serious philological study of sacred letters. Vergerio suggested that 
virtually all of Jerome's exegetical works came after that frightening 
experience. He could never have accomplished his scriptural studies, 
however, without thorough grounding in the three relevant languages, 
nor did he cease to study pagan literature. ^^ 

' Sermo 5: "ipsum medius fidius Ciceronem mihi legere videor cum libros Hieronymi 
lego." In Sermo 3, Vergerio listed all of the subjects that Jerome had mastered: the three bib- 
lical languages, ecclesiastical and secular history, poetry, science {notitia rerum), and 
eloquence, in which he equaled the accomplishments of Cicero. 

'° Hieronymus, Ep. 22.30 {CSEL 54:189-91). On the dream and its import for Jerome, 
see Arthur Stanley Pease, "The Attitude of Jerome towards Pagan Literature," Transactions 
and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 50 (1919): 150-67; Edwin A. Quain, 
"St. Jerome as a Humanist," in Francis X. Murphy, ed.,^ Monument to Saint Jerome: Essays 
on Some Aspects of His Life, Works and Influence (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1952), 201-32; 
Paul Antin, "Autour du songe de S. Jerome," in Recueil sur saint Jerome, Collection 
Latomus 95 (Brussels: Latomus, 1968), 71-75; and Kelly, Jerome, 41-44. For humanist 
attempts to deal with the dream's legacy, see Kice, Jerome in the Renaissance, 3-7, 84-115; 
McManamon, "Beginnings," 363-71; and Anna Morisi Guerra, "La leggenda di San 
Girolamo: Temi e problemi tra Umanesimo e Controriforma," Clio 23 (1987): 12-17. 

" Sermo 3: "Posthac autem, ut ipse asserit, codices gentilium legit, sed tanto studio divi- 
na tractavit quanto ilia ante non legerat, unde aut totum aut certe partem maximam suorum 
librorum postquam id evenit edidit. In quibus tamen tantum est peregrinae historiae, tantum 
gentilium fabularum extemaeque disciplinae, omnia ad fidei usum accommodata ut nihil 
aliud dies ac noctes egisse quam ut ilia conquirat videri possit. Sed et de fide tot tantaque 
praescripsit ut nusquam ei vacasse libros gentilium legere facile credi queat." If Vergerio's ser- 
mon is correctly transmitted, then Vergerio revised Jerome's accovmt in order to favor hu- 

Humanism's Patron Saint 127 

Ciceronian eloquence also supplied Jerome with a set of values 
worthy of his scholarly vocation. According to Vergerio, Jerome had 
consistently questioned himself about the relevance [utilitas) of his 
scholarly activities. Jerome could never be satisfied merely with the 
personal enjoyment {otium, voluptas) that his studies engendered. ^^ He 
had undertaken vast scholarly projects such as the revision of the 
Vulgate translation in order to assist people in performing a variety of 
activities. For Vergerio, this was the supreme value of Jerome's scholar- 
ship: no one had ever written anything more essential to the life of the 
believing community. Secondly, Jerome proved to be a scholar in the 
Ciceronian mold because he had safeguarded the persuasive power of his 
ethos throughout his life. Vergerio fused the title of Christian doctor 
with the Roman ideal of the orator, an upright man skilled in public 
persuasion. "He was a doctor not only in word but in example and was 
no less distinguished by his life than he was by his language. That is the 
best type of learning, in which one confirms by the example of his life 
what he has publicly advocated that all should do."^^ 

Jerome was victorious in the greatest of life's, battles: he subjected 
himself to the dictates of an informed conscience. Three times Jerome 
gave dramatic proof of the degree of interior freedom that he had 
achieved. First, when all thought that he would be chosen as the next 
pope, Jerome left the city of Rome.^^ He overcame the temptation to 
grasp supreme power in the Church and offered a noble example of 
indifference. By leaving Rome altogether, he also stymied those jealous 
Roman clerics who had intrigued to undermine his influence at the 
Papal Court. Secondly, Jerome went to study under Gregory of Nazian- 
zus at a moment in his career when he was considered one of the most 

manist studies. In the Comm. in Epist. ad Galatas {PL 26:427), Jerome claimed that he had 
not read any of the secular writers for fifteen years after the dream. One cannot categorical- 
ly exclude the possibilities that Vergerio cited the source from memory or that a scribe 
made an error. 

'^ Sermo 4: "Nee fuit, ut in plerisque, otiosa in hoc homine tanta doctrina." Sermo 7: 
"Alii vero doctores peritissimi, soUemnissimi, et fidei nostrae lumina, qui, ne ulla pars vitae 
suae inutilis nobis esset, die ac nocte, negotio et quiete, scribendo praedicandoque nobis pro- 

'^ Epist., 184-85: "Doctor non solum verbo sed exemplo, nee minus vita clarus quam 
sermone. Illud enim est optimum doctrinae genus, ut, quod ore quis faciendum monet, vita 
exemploque suo comprobet." See also Sermo 3: "Non solum enim verbo et scriptis sed re 
et exemplo docuit. ..." 

'* Jerome is the source for the assertion that almost everyone considered him worthy of 
the highest church office; see Ep. 45.3 {CSEL 54:325). 

128 CHAPTER 8 

learned scholars of the day. Consistent with the ideals of Socratic 
philosophy, Jerome always remained aware of the limits of his knowl- 
edge. Finally, during his time as a hermit in the Syrian desert, Jerome 
suffered intense temptations to abandon his ascetic ways and return to 
the wild days of his adolescence.^^ Vergerio accurately noted that Je- 
rome's spiritual struggles intensified after he had abandoned the civilized 
world of the city. Those who simplistically saw such withdrawal as a 
flight from life's challenges did not understand the movements of the 
spiritual life. 

Much like the Cicero whom Vergerio had imagined responding to 
Petrarch, Jerome made his fundamental decisions without allowing 
dogmas which overvalued the contemplative life to dictate his choices. 
Above all, Jerome concerned himself with fidelity to the values that he 
had advocated and with his usefulness to others. As Jerome had adapted 
his actions to the needs of his day, Vergerio adapted his message to the 
needs of his audience. When speaking before monks, Vergerio empha- 
sized the importance of reform through observance of the rule. Too 
many monks, in Vergerio's estimation, had surrendered to a spirit of 
laxity and self-gratification. They should be inspired to change by the 
example of Jerome's humility and self-abnegation. Jerome's biographies 
of the desert fathers, replete with vivid descriptions of their austere lives, 
reinforced that message. Though monks in Vergerio's day might not 
reach the heroic levels of sanctity of those early hermits, they could 
certainly imitate the desert fathers in charity and good works. By 
renewing themselves, they might help monastic life to flourish once 

Vergerio also used the panegyrics to indicate other areas where the 
Church had need of reform. He suggested that preaching had lost vigor 
in his day because preachers concerned themselves solely with the 
popularity they achieved from the pulpit. Their appeal to moral values 
from on high suffered because they themselves led such dissolute lives. 
Jerome had once reminded preachers that the faithful frequently ask 
themselves why a preacher did not do what he himself had urged. ^^ In 

'^ To describe those sufferings, Vergerio quoted eight different times a passage from Je- 
rome's letter to Eustochium {Ep. 11.7, CSEL 54:152-54). On Jerome's adolescence, see Ferdi- 
nand Cavallera, Saint Jerome: Sa vie et son oeuvre (Louvain and Paris, 1922), 2:72-75. Jerome 
himself {Ep. 49.20) admitted that he was not a virgin. 

'^ Epiit., 184-85: "In qua re parum curiosi mihi praedicatores nostri temporis videntur, 
quibus omne in bene dicendo studium est, in bene faciendo nullum; quasi vero in fide de 
eloquentia, non de ratione vitae contendatur, aut orationibus, non bonis / atque Sanctis 

Humanism's Patron Saint 129 

fact, the entire spiritual life of the Church languished due to the visible 
moral failings of the clergy. UnUke the ascetic Jerome, contemporary 
clerics were wealthy and well fed. Worse yet, they openly sought 
advancement in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Jerome had left Rome when 
his election as pope seemed guaranteed. In Vergerio's day, two rivals 
claimed to be pope and refused to consider any resolution, which might 
endanger their own standing. No one should be surprised, Vergerio 
observed, that utterly unworthy men sit on the throne of Peter today. 
The comforts of Rome and Avignon allured corrupt clergymen and fed 
their ambitions. ^^ 

Vergerio highlighted the importance of Jerome's historical contribu- 
tion by drawing an analogy between the development of the Church 
and human development. Born in the age of the apostles and nourished 
throughout its childhood by the witness of the martyrs, the Church had 
by the fourth century reached the difficult stage of adolescence.^^ To 
illustrate the challenges posed by that stage, Vergerio employed a 
metaphor from agriculture which had precedents in the parables of the 
Gospels. The seeds planted by apostolic preaching had sprouted into 
shoots, but they were still tender in the fourth century. Their growth 
was threatened by harmful plants. By a variety of methods, Jerome had 
cleared the Lord's field of potential dangers. He taught those humble 
enough to learn through the dignity of his language and the example of 
his life. Moreover, he corrected the stubborn errors of heretics, and he 
censured the unjust attacks of envious rival clerics. An abundantly 
merciful God had sent his doctor, a new type of Christian hero, to 

viris, caelum pateat. Qui ergo recte docet et iu vivit ut docet, vere ille doctor est; qui aliter, 
mendax et se ipsum sententia sua condemnans." See also Hieronymus Ep. 52.7 {CSEL 
54:426-27): "Non confundant opera sermonem tuum, ne, cum in ecclesia loqueris, ucitus 
quilibet respondeat: 'cur ergo haec ipse non facis?' " 

'' Sermo 1: "Ex quibus factimi est ut non tarn summo pontificatu, ad quern etiam 
indigni pervenire posstmt, quam regno caelorum, quo nullus pertingit indignus, se dignissi- 
mum redderet. ..." 

" Sermo 3: "ille optimus caelestis agricola, quo possent bene nau semina salubriter adole- 
seer, istos sibi ministros delegit qui et haereticorum zizania ex agro suo vellerent et teneram 
segetem spinis tribulisque ac ceteris noxiis herbis plantisque purgarent." Sermo 5: "At certe 
magis necessariimi neminem habuit ecclesia: talem siquidem turn primum adolescens tumque 
primum oriens alumnum sibi expetebat, tarn solidum cui inniteretur cardinem, tam fortem 
qui se tueretur patronum. Quern profecto non casu aliquo sed summa Dei providentia atque 
aetemo consilio illi tempori datum existimandum est, ut esset qui teneram et invalidam 
atque a multis adversariis impetitam ducatu, monitis, praesidioque suo protegeret." Sermo 
10: "Cum enim in ilia quasi adolescentia fidei nostrae undique pullularent errores, qui um- 
quam spinae teneram segetem suffocarent, opus fuit ut solicitum ac fortem colonum agro 
suo Deus immitteret. . . ." The emphasis is mine. 

130 CHAPTER 8 

educate the Church at that critical moment in its development. 

It was also characteristic of Vergerio's sermons to place little or no 
emphasis on the miracles that Jerome had performed. By "passing over 
those miracles in silence," Vergerio implicitly censured the tales of 
wonder-working proffered by works such as the forged letters. They 
pandered to the credulous instincts of the common people. Vergerio 
offered a spirituality that emphasized the importance of learning for an 
elite group of educators and scholars. Nevertheless, in one of the ser- 
mons, he did describe a miracle that Jerome performed on behalf of two 
non-Christian travelers whose curiosity had led them to set out for the 
Holy Land in order to see the grave of Jerome. The two young men lost 
their way and wandered into a forest, where a band of thieves spotted 
them. Jerome intervened to protect the two travelers; he made them 
appear to be a much larger group. The robbers retreated because they 
thought they were outnumbered. After all involved had grasped the 
nature of Jerome's miraculous intervention, the pagans were baptized 
while the leader of the thieves became a monk. The miracle reflected 
Vergerio's convictions in three important ways. First, Vergerio had not 
forgotten the protection that Jerome offered to his family on the road 
to Cividale del Friuli. Secondly, Vergerio always considered vision the 
most significant and powerful of the human senses; he would easily 
recall an instance when Jerome accomplished his miraculous purpose by 
creating an optical illusion. Finally, of all of the miracles attributed to 
Jerome, Vergerio chose one worked on behalf of two nonbelievers. 
"Therefore, this glorious saint proved himself a ready benefactor toward 
the pagans and criminals. How much the more will he be generous 
toward Christians and especially Catholics who venerate his name.^"^' 

In effect, Vergerio had dedicated himself to making Jerome a protec- 
tor of the pagans in his own day, and he utilized the a fortiori logic 
found in the preceding quotation as his preferred rhetorical means to 
safeguard the legacy of classical culture. Such logic moves from a more 
difficult case to one that is less difficult in order to establish the likeli- 
hood of the latter. In Aristotle's terms, "if the harder of two things is 
possible, so also is the other."^° Vergerio therefore argued that, if 

" Sermo 7: "Sic igitur hie gloriosus sanctus in gentiles et nefarios homines tarn pronus 
tamque beneficus extitit; quanto magis in Christianos et vere Catholicos, si nomen suum ve- 
nerabuntur, existet?" 

^° Aristotle Rhet. 2.19.2 (Loeb edition, Freese, trans., 267). Richard A. Lanhani,y4 Hand- 
list of Rhetorical Terms: A Guide for Students of English Literature (Berkeley, Los Angeles, 

Humanism 's Patron Saint 131 

Jerome proved so generous to pagans (the more difficult), then how 
much more generous will he be to Catholics (the less difficult). The 
entire asssertion posits continuity between the two poles of action. 
Vergerio therefore moved logically from worthy pagans to pious Chris- 
tians; both deservedly benefit from Jerome's saintly patronage. In fact, 
Vergerio also praised the pagans in his sermons because they had intuit- 
ed proper human actions without the advantages that Christianity 
offered to believers. That was especially true of the pagan practice of 
panegyric. "In keeping with ancient custom, the representations of 
distinguished men are displayed, their deeds are described, and their 
benefactions are recalled in order that succeeding generations strive 
through zealous emulation of virtue to follow in the path of those 
whom they esteem. "^^ Vergerio even applauded the pious lives of 
non-Christians in his own day in order to arouse compunction among 
his Christian listeners, who should feel no monopoly on divine assis- 

Vergerio thereby transformed Jerome from the enemy of humanist 
learning to a proof of the value of those studies for the believing com- 
munity. In the course of the fourteenth century, previous humanists had 
had to deal with the figure of Jerome primarily because opponents of 
humanism pointed to Jerome as a religious authority clearly hostile to 
pagan learning. Already in 1315, the Dominican Giovannino da Man- 
tova adduced Jerome's remark that "the verses of poets are the food of 
demons" to chide Albertino Mussato of Padua for his dedication to 
writing poetry. From Petrarch on, Jerome's dream and his condemna- 
tion as a Ciceronian haunted the humanists.^ Petrarch himself empha- 
sized that Jerome continued to study Cicero even after the vision. 
However, Petrarch preferred the interiority of Augustine to Jerome's 
more activist spirituality. Coluccio Salutati felt that the vision taught 
one not to engage in exclusive or excessive study of classical works. 

and London: Univ. of California Press, 1968), 108, offers the following illustration: "If you 
want to prove A has acted in a cruel way at one time, show that at another he acted still 
more cruelly." 

^' Sermo 2: "Hinc veteri more proponuntur clarorum virorum imagines, describuntur 
gesta, et benefacu memorantur ut aemulatione virtutis studiosa posteritas assequi quos 
probat nitatur." 

" See Berthold Louis Ullman, The Humanism of Coluccio Salutati, Medioevo e umanesi- 
mo 4 (Padua: Antenore, 1963), 54, 61; Ronald G. Witt, "Coluccio Saluuti and the Concep- 
tion of the Poeta Theologus in the Fourteenth Century," Renaissance Quarterly 30 (1977): 
540-41; and McManamon, "Beginnings," 363-68. 

132 CHAPTER 8 

Vergerio had grown up with a special devotion to Jerome, and he 
deepened that devotion when he shifted his intellectual activities more 
and more toward humanist studies. In contrast to the portrait of Jerome 
as archenemy of pagan learning, Vergerio portrayed a Jerome who 
argued for the importance of such studies, especially for a "sacred 
philology. "■^^ He returned Jerome to the study, where he engaged in 
scholarship useful for believers. In communicating his portrait of Jerome 
as an exponent of humanist learning, Vergerio appropriately used a 
humanist medium. He consciously changed the manner of preaching 
common in his day. In the introduction to the sermon that he delivered 
in Padua in 1392, Vergerio told his audience that he was omitting a 
thematic verse from Scripture as the basis for his sermon. By so doing, 
he need not structure the discourse as an explanation for the relevance 
of the theme. Rather, he could concentrate on the life of Jerome. He 
therefore used the rhetorical topics of a panegyrical oration as specified 
in the classical handbooks. He became conversant with those topics in 
1392 and 1393 when he wrote epideictic speeches for the Carrara court. 
Vergerio claimed that he was doing what the most up-to-date preachers 
[apud modemos) commonly did. In fact, scholars who have investigated 
Renaissance preaching have found no earlier examples of sermons based 
upon classical norms.^'* 

In offering a synchronic treatment of the sermons, one risks focusing 
exclusively on their innovative elements. Other aspects of the form and 
the content demonstrate that Vergerio used discretion because he knew 
that his innovative techniques might cause undue controversy. He did 
eliminate a thematic verse and thereby changed the basic form of the 
sermon. Yet, to conclude the panegyrics, he often used a prayer in the 
traditional form of a doxology ("who lives and reigns as blessed for ever 

^ Paul Oskar KnsttWtr, Renaissance Thought and Its Sources, Michael Mooney, ed. (New 
York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1979), 72. 

^* See John W. O'Malley, Praise and Blame in Rerutissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and 
Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450-1521, Duke Monographs in Medi- 
eval and Renaissance Studies 3 (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1979), 85-86; Kristeller, 
Renaissance Thought and Its Sources, 248-49; and McManamon, "Beginnings," 369-71. The 
outline for a thematic sermon on Jerome prepared by Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419) provides 
a distinct contemporary contrast. The Dominican preacher proposes Luke 1 1:36 for a theme 
("a lamp gives you light with its rays") and suggests that one discuss in the second division 
of the theme ("Lucerna fulgoris propter cognitionem veritatis") Jerome's "vapulationem 
cum prius studeret in doctrina Ciceronis." For the outline, see Vincent Ferrer, O.P., Les Ser- 
mons Panegyriques, H. D. Fages, O.P., ed., vol. 2 of Oeuvres de Saint Vincent Ferrier (Paris, 
1909), 734. On Vincent's career as a preacher beginning in 1399, see Alvaro Huerga, "Vin- 
cent Ferrer," Dictionnaire de Spiritualite (Paris: Beauchesne, 1994), 16:815-16. 

Humanism's Patron Saint 133 

and ever"). One sermon alludes to the farcical story that Jerome's 
enemies in Rome attempted to destroy his reputation by leaving a 
woman's dress near his bed.^^ The next morning the distinguished 
cleric unwittingly slipped the dress on and appeared for morning 
prayers. Vergerio continued to praise Jerome for his ascetic withdrawal 
into the desert; the sermons do not supply a univocal endorsement of 
the active life. That is not surprising, however, because no humanist 
endorsed the active life to the exclusion of the contemplative. Vergerio 
preferred the active life as the best way to utilize his humanist learn- 
ing.^^ In one sermon, he even admitted a certain ambivalence about the 
extent of his worldly activities. "What must a wretch like myself do? 
Caught up in worldly affairs, I do not sufficiently fear the culpability of 
my past sins nor the punishment of the judgment to come."^ While 
Vergerio could probably not pass over in silence his own compunction 
after he had just censured his monastic audience for worldliness, his 
self-questioning is genuine. He had spent much of his adult life searching 
for a powerful and wealthy patron who would offer him a post in 
public service. In those same years, he had stressed in his panegyrics the 
importance of detachment as exemplified by Jerome. Vergerio apparent- 
ly sensed that he might compromise his own ethos, if he continued to 
applaud Jerome's detachment while he avidly pursued a position of 

Increasingly, Vergerio had forged the highly idealistic path of a 
Christian spirituality imbued with the spirit of Ciceronian ethos. In a 
letter from 1396, Vergerio claimed that human nature could reach no 
more sublime achievement than a truly pure mind. For Vergerio, that 
meant a mind devoted to God and endowed with a conscience that 

^ Sermo 3: "Nam muliebri veste per fraudem contectum de incontinentia calumniati 
sunt." See Sermo 2 for a typical doxology: "qui et vivit et regnat per infinita saecula benedi- 
ctus." Sermons 1 and 2 have a doxology followed by a "tellos" explicit. For the Renaissance 
use of the telos (Lztin finis) explicit, see Dieter Wuttke, "Telos als explicit," in Fritz Krafft 
and Dieter Wuttke, eds.. Das Verhdltnis der Humanisten zum Buch, Kommission fiir Human- 
ismusforschung, Mitteilung 4 (Boppard: H. Boldt, 1977), 50-52. Wuuke's earliest example 
is a manuscript copied by Sozomeno da Pistoia in 1415, and none of his examples has the 
spelling of the Vergerio manuscripts. 

^ See Robey, "Republicanism," 28-31; and Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Active and 
Contemplative Life in Renaissance Humanism," in Brian Vickers, ed., Arbeit, Musse, 
Meditation: Betrachtungen zur Vita activa und Vita contemplativa (Zurich: Verlag der 
Vachvereine, 1985), 133-52. 

^ Sermo 10: "Quod si ita est, quid mihi faciendum est misero? qui saeculo implicitus nee 
praeteritorum culpam peccatorum nee futuri poenam iudicii metuo, sed errores impuniute 
sua nutrio negligensque paenitentiae deterior in dies fio." 

134 CHAPTER 8 

recognized virtue. So transparent was that instinct for goodness that one 
naturally had regard for the common good and lost the capacity to 
deceive. Vergerio used Cicero's definition of ethos to explain his sense: 
"The man who has such an attitude, as Cicero says, will not even dare 
to do nor to conceive of something which he does not have the courage 
to advocate." It took special insight to recognize the blessed character of 
such a human life. The common people, deluded as always, thought that 
those men are happiest who rule over others and abound in wealth 
sufficient to indulge their every pleasure. In reality, such men constantly 
thirst for greater riches and are never satisfied. Their frustrations are 
chronic. One who obeys the most genuine impulses of human reason, 
on the other hand, generously donates his wealth for charitable purpos- 
es. His deep longing for union with God is partially satisfied in this life 
and arouses even greater desire for lasting union in the afterlife.^^ 

When Vergerio finally answered his own question about a remedy 
for his sinfulness, he offered a resounding affirmation that the mercy of 
God far exceeds the combined iniquity of all sinners. According to 
Vergerio's calculations, God had given grace abundantly to human 
beings. And Vergerio had personally experienced that divine generosity 
because Jerome had proved such an effective heavenly patron for himself 
and his family. Likewise, Jerome's example had spurred Vergerio to 
pursue virtue while continuing on the path of liberal studies.^' Ver- 
gerio's maturing convictions, however, conflicted with reactionary 
currents of his day. While Vergerio spoke in praise of Jerome, who wit- 
nessed to the value of humanist learning for the Church, Carlo Malate- 
sta destroyed a statue of Virgil for purportedly pious motives. While 
Vergerio denounced the common tendency to measure greatness in 
terms of slaughter in warfare and success in imperialism, Giangaleazzo 
Visconti embroiled his world in wars designed to bring him the crown 
of Italy.^° Finally, while Vergerio offered Jerome's detachment as a 

^ Epist., 180-82 (a letter to Remigio Soranzo from 16 August 1396). See esp. 180, where 
Vergerio cites Cicero Off. 3.19.77: "Puram autem mentem intelligo, non earn, quae ex defec- 
tu cognitionis facilis est falli, fallere nesciens, sed earn, quae ex abundantia virtutis omnibus 
bene consuli cupit. In qua nihil est duplex, nihil simulatum, nihil tectum; sed, quicquid est, 
omnia palam est. Qui hanc mentem habet, hie nedum facere, ut Cicero ait, sed nee cogitare 
quicquam audebit quod non audeat praedicare." 

^' Sermo 10: "Verum ea una res me consolatur et ad spem erigit, quoniam scio maiorem 
esse misericordiam Dei mei quam peccantium omnium iniquitatem." Sermo 5: "Huiusce- 
modi effictiotum iucunda, tum et perutilis est mihi. Quotiens enim libet devotissimum mihi 
patronum meum coram induco; quo praesente, ne dicere quidem aut facere, ac ne cogitare 
quidem quicquam mali audeo. Sed, hortante eo, in bona studia et bonas spes laetus erigor." 

^ Sermo 2: "Magnum iudicatur in terris vicisse regna, occupasse imperium, devictis 

Humanism's Patron Saint 135 

remedy for the illness of the Schism, the two rival claimants and their 
supporters tightened their grip upon their respective spheres of authori- 
ty. In the tradition of Christian prophets who found their lives "punctu- 
ated by dramatic conflicts with unjust authorities," Jerome had de- 
nounced the clericalism of Rome's ministers, never wavering in his 
courageous conviction that ecclesiastical rank does not make one a 
Christian.^^ Vergerio now sought to bring that message to the Papal 
Court itself. 

hostibus triumphasse, et terrenam gloriam plausu populorum et favoribus quaesisse munda- 
nis." Sermo 4: "Solent autem in mundanis laudibus celebrari certamina, victoriae, triumphi, 
et cetera huiuscemodi." Ibid.: "Si enim magnum est urbem aliquam aut regnum unum 
mundi vincere, quanto mains est mundum ipsum superare?" Sermo 5: "Soletquippe indoc- 
tum vulgus existimare non posse magnas res fieri nisi caede, bello, armis, militia, obsidione 
urbium, captione, eversione, sed fallitur." 

^' Hieronymus Ep. 14.9 {CSEL 54:58): "Non facit ecclesiastica dignitas Christianum." 
The characterization of confessors is offered by Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise 
and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago, 1981), 101. 


Humanism and Church Reform 

Sometime between March and August of 1405, Pierpaolo Vergerio 
returned to Rome. His willingness to accept employment in the 
Roman Curia marked a change of heart. During his first visit to Rome 
in 1398, Vergerio felt disillusioned by the moral corruption within the 
Curia and dismayed by the general neglect for ancient culture. Although 
Giovanni Conversini da Ravenna, a trusted mentor, had repeatedly 
urged Vergerio to seek employment at the Papal Court, he had never 
done so. Both men loathed the unscrupulous politicking of Pope Boni- 
face IX (1389-1404), During an embassy for Francesco Novello da Car- 
rara in 1400, Conversini found it scandalous that Boniface had to place 
armed guards at the door and that he interrupted his attendance at Sun- 
day Mass to discuss Giovanni's mission. Vergerio in turn, like most 
modem historians, remembered the pope for his crass practice of simo- 
ny.^ Boniface had subdued the Roman nobility and recovered cities which 
Giangaleazzo Visconti had seized within the Papal States, but he did so, 
according to the two humanists, through disastrous moral compromises. 

Vergerio felt a new sense of possibility after Cosimo Migliorati was 
elected to succeed Boniface. The new pope chose the name Innocent VH 

' See Epist., 286-87, 365 ("nisi Bonifacius DC, qui Ecclesiae praeerat, pridem didicisset 
tnagis extimare pecuniam quam virtutem, quarum alterius inops erat, alterius opulentissi- 
mus"); and Remigio Sabbadini, Giovanni da Ravenna insigne figura d'umanista (1343-1408), 
Studi umanistici 1 (Como, 1924), 80-85. Vergerio later tried to convince Conversini to come 
to Rome and work for Innocent VII; see Benjamin G. Kohl, "Introduction," in Giovanni 
Conversini da Ravenna, Dragmalogia de eligibili vitae genere, H. Lanneau Eaker, ed. and 
trans., Bucknell Renaissance texts in translation, in conjunction with The Renaissance Soci- 
ety of America: Renaissance Texts Series 7 (Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell Univ. Press, and 
London: Associated University Presses, 1980), 28-29. 

138 CHAPTER 9 

(1404-1406). Vergerio had cultivated Migliorati's friendship after their 
lengthy encounters in Rome. He trusted the pope's ethical convictions 
and knew firsthand his support for humanism. No sooner did Vergerio 
take refuge in Rome, however, than he found himself embroiled in a 
new outburst of civic violence.^ For years, Roman affairs had been 
shaped by a struggle for hegemony involving kaleidescopic alliances 
among three powers: the papal forces, the Roman nobility, and Ladislas 
of Durazzo, the king of Naples (1400-1414). With significant aid from 
Ladislas, Boniface IX had managed to hold the Roman nobles in check. 
When Innocent became pope, Ladislas abandoned the papal alliance and 
maneuvered against him in tandem with powerful Roman nobles. Iso- 
lated, Innocent sought to negotiate an agreement with his noble rivals. 
In exchange for the restoration of certain privileges, the nobles would 
for their part acknowledge papal overlordship. 

On 5 August 1405, shortly after Vergerio's arrival. Innocent received 
a delegation of nobles at the papal palace. After a typically stormy 
meeting, the nobles were ambushed on their way home by forces under 
the command of Ludovico Migliorati, Innocent's nephew. In ruthless 
fashion, Ludovico massacred the pope's political rivals, triggering a re- 
bellion that forced Innocent and his court to flee to Viterbo. Vergerio 
vividly remembered the helter-skelter retreat, during which the papal 
party left the road littered with the dead bodies of its supporters.^ Even- 
tually, the Roman nobles soured on their Neapolitan allies and drove 
them out. They invited Innocent to return to Rome as lord in exchange 
for promises not to rule by tyranny. The pope came back to Rome on 
13 March 1406; in the intervening months, however. Innocent had con- 
centrated solely on Roman affairs and ignored his promise to resolve the 
Great Western Schism. 

Lacking conclusive evidence, scholars have failed to establish precise- 
ly what role Vergerio filled during his years at the Papal Court. His 
name is not found in the existing registers of Innocent VII. Some have 
therefore surmised that Vergerio functioned as a chancery secretary on 
occasional request and that he held no fixed curial office. Vergerio him- 
self stated only that Innocent VII had given him "an office and bene- 
fices." Antonio Loschi, a contemporary humanist, indicated that Verge- 

2 Epist., 284. Cf. ibid., 224-27. 

^ PPV, Oratio (inc: O altitude divitiarum), Smith, ed., 132. For the massacre and its af- 
termath, see Leonardo Smith, "Note cronologiche vergeriane, lU-V," Archivio veneto, ser. 
5, 4 (1928): 114-24; and Smith, EpisL, 284-85 n. 1. 

Humanism and Church Reform 139 

rio held a position similar to that of Leonardo Bruni, who had won the 
job of papal secretary in 1405.^ Vergerio's corpus includes a letter that 
he wrote in the name of Innocent to Coluccio Salutati as Florentine 
chancellor. The pope had enjoined Vergerio to respond to the arguments 
of a tract which Salutati had recently sent to Rome. Salutati's short 
treatise and Vergerio's letter dealt with the wisdom of the policies that 
Innocent had adopted to end the Schism.^ 

Acting on reports that the Avignonese pope, Benedict XIII, had pro- 
posed that both claimants abdicate, Salutati wrote to Innocent to en- 
dorse the idea. In his response, Vergerio first asserted that Innocent had 
already devised a better plan. The Roman pope intended to summon a 
council which would meet in Rome and address all problems that had 
arisen because of the Schism, including the possible resignation of both 
popes. Vergerio argued for that plan from the popular legal dictum that 
"what concerns all should be decided by all."^ Moreover, he upbraided 
Salutati for believing rumors circulating among the common people. 
Benedict had not indicated his willingness to resign but had only accept- 
ed to meet with Innocent. By acting on rumors, Salutati had demeaned 
his stature as an intellectual; by sending a copy of his tract to Benedict, 
he had placed the Roman pope in a very difficult position. Vergerio also 
intended to write a systematic refutation of the tract, but he abandoned 
the project after Salutati's death on 4 May 1406. Six months later, Verge- 
rio wrote a letter to Zabarella in Florence which he conceived as a final 

* Epist, 286 ("quod ab eo [Innocent VII] honore et beneficils auctus sum . . ."), 326 
("Nam officia quidem quae gero, si in rationem forsitan deducantur, quamvis industriae 
magis praemia quam gratiae munera existimari debent, tamen a predecessore huius fere 
omnia accepi . . ."). The relevant passage in Loschi's poem is cited by Smith, EpisL, 454n; 
and George Holmes, The Florentine Enlightenment 1400-50 (New York: Pegasus, 1969), 60 
n. 2. For the debate on Vergerio's role, see Ludwig Pastor, Storia dei Papi dalla fine del 
Medio Evo, Clemente Benetti et al., trans. (Trent and Rome, 1890-1934), 1:131; Conrad 
Bischoff, Studien zu P. P. Vergerio dem Alteren (Berlin and Leipzig, 1909), ix, 45-46; Smith, 
Epist, 286 n. 1; and Holmes, Florentine Enlightenment, 56-63. Vergerio had become an 
archdeacon of Piove di Sacco in 1404 and still possessed that benefice in 1408. Apparently 
the antipope John XXIII named him a canon of Ravenna, for he is mentioned as such in a 
document from the Council of Constance dated 1414 (Smith, Epist., 370 n. 1). 

^ See Epist, 278-83; and Ronald G. Witt, Hercules at the Crossroads: The Life, Works, and 
Thought of Coluccio Salutati, Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (Dur- 
ham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1983), 175-76. 

' See Epist, 280: "Cum enim causa haec Ecclesiae universae communis sit, communi 
debet consilio decidi"; and Antonio Marongiu, "The Theory of Democracy and Consent in 
the Fourteenth Century," in F. L. Cheyette, ed.. Lordship and Community in Medieval 
Europe (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968), 404-13. 

140 CHAPTER 9 

tribute to Salutati/ He acknowledged that Salutati had suppHed an ex- 
ample of true learning throughout his life and seemed especially interest- 
ed in the possibility of acquiring Salutati's books.* The cool, almost 
mercenary tone of the letter suggests that the wounds opened by Saluta- 
ti's criticism of the De ingenuis moribus had not completely healed. 

By June of 1406, Vergerio had begun to manifest renewed optimism 
regarding Innocent's qualities of leadership. Through private conversa- 
tions, Vergerio had come to believe that Innocent wished to govern with 
justice and compassion.^ Moreover, the pope had enacted key reforms 
of curial abuses. He had put an end to the manipulation of justice 
through bribes. He relished the opportunity to respond to formal peti- 
tions for assistance and willingly accepted advice in public consistories. 
In August, Vergerio delivered a sermon to commemorate the return of 
Castel Sant'Angelo to papal jurisdiction. Vergerio made the event signify 
the reconciliation between the Romans and their lord bishop. The mas- 
sacre and violence a year before had unexpectedly led to civic concord. 
The Papal State now submitted to Innocent's authority, and he had nego- 
tiated a peace treaty with King Ladislas of Naples. Vergerio urged his lis- 
teners to see the hand of divine providence behind those events. God 
had permitted that the established order be temporarily overturned in 
order to assure necessary reforms. Stigmatizing the crimes committed by 
the pope's nephew and the rebellion that followed, Vergerio emphasized 
the harmony that must now reign by repeating the word "peace" seven 
times in a brief interval. He also lectured Innocent that spiritual arms 
alone had proven efficacious for the Church. ^° 

The next two months were among the happiest that Vergerio had 
yet experienced. Toward the end of September, he wrote a poem in 
which he depicted an idyllic life at the court of a generous patron of hu- 
manism. The poem celebrated a poetry contest held in the late summer 
of 1406. Among the participants were Antonio Loschi and Francesco da 

' Epist, 296-99. 

* Ibid., 298: "Ex quibus [books] scire per te cupio quid extet et quam spem das exempla- 
rium habendorum." 

' Epist, 287-91. 

'° Oratio (inc: O altitudo divitiarum), Smith, ed., 132-33, esp. 133: "Pacem enim is petiit 
qui ne daturus quidem poscentibus credebatur; pacem attulit qui in militari studio armorum- 
que disciplina pacis hostis videri potuerat. Sic dum bello intentissimus creditur, tunc potis- 
simum de pace deliberat; alter dum bellum animose prosequitur, pacem insperatam invenit 
et retulit." See also John M. McManamon, "Innovation in Early Humanist Rhetoric: The 
Oratory of Pier Paolo Vergerio the Elder," Rinascimento, n.s., 22 (1982): 11-12. 

Humanism and Church Reform 141 

Fiano. Despite urgings by Vergerio, Leonardo Bruni declined to submit 
an entry, for he found himself occupied with the tasks that Innocent had 
delegated to him. By early September, for example, Bruni had composed 
a bull which announced that the pope was refounding the University of 
Rome. According to Bruni's text. Innocent intended to make the Roman 
university "a haven for all the humane letters" and especially for the 
study of Greek. Vergerio and Bruni were relieved that the pope offered 
institutional support to the humanist movement at that juncture.'^ For 
several years, learned clerics such as Giovanni Dominici had mounted a 
sustained attack on the humanist program. In sermons and tracts, Domi- 
nici claimed that humanist studies in no way assisted the salvation of a 
believer and at times proved harmful to authentic belief. Dominici speci- 
fically censured the manipulative power of orators trained in classical 
principles. The Florentine Dominican seemed to be the one opponent of 
humanism who understood, as Vergerio did, the importance of rhetoric 
to classical culture. He used his understanding of that importance to un- 
derscore the dangers of a humanist education.^^ 

The polemic against humanism figured prominently in Vergerio's 
mind as he composed his annual panegyric for Jerome in 1406. Vergerio 
also became increasingly concerned that Innocent had failed to call the 
council he had promised in order to address the grave problem of the 
Schism. The rebellion in Rome the previous year had distracted Inno- 
cent, but, now that his authority had been restored, Vergerio wondered 
why he did not act on his promise. His panegryic on 30 September 1406 
addressed both of those concerns. In response to the criticisms of Gio- 
vanni Dominici, Vergerio presented a Jerome who epitomized the hu- 
manist ideal of education given in the De ingenuis moribus. Jerome was 

" On the poetry contest, see PPV, Poetica Narratio, Smith, ed., Epist., 453; Holmes, 
Florentine Enlightenment, 60; and Germano Gualdo, "Antonio Loschi, segretario apostoUco 
(1406-1436)," Archivio storico italiano \A7, no. 4 (1989): 750-57. Loschi had come to Rome 
on an embassy for Doge Michele Steno; see Dieter Girgensohn, "Antonio Loschi und Bal- 
dassare Cossa vor dem Pisaner Konzil (mit der Oratio pro unione ecclesiae)," IMU 30 (1987): 
32. For Bruni's bull, dated 1 September 1406, see Gordon Griffiths, "Leonardo Bruni and 
the Restoration of the University of Rome," Renaissance Quarterly 26 (1973): 1-10. 

'^ See Berth old Louis Ullman, The Humanism ofColuccio Salutati, Medioevo e umanesi- 
mo 4 (Padua: Antenore, 1963), 63-65; Holmes, Florentine Enlightenment, 32-35; Peter Den- 
ley, "Giovanni Dominici's Opposition to Humanism," in Keith Robbins, ed., Religion and 
Humanism, Studies in Church History 17 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981), 109-14; Daniel 
R. Lesnick, "Civic Preaching in the Early Renaissance: Giovanni Dominici's Florentine Ser- 
mons," in Timothy Verdon and John Henderson, eds., Christianity and the Renaissance: Im- 
age and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento (Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1990), 
214-22; and Giorgio Cracco, "Banchini, Giovanni di Domenico," DBI 5:657-64. 

142 CHAPTER 9 

learned {doctus) and upright {rectus). He had mastered a variety of disci- 
plines that included the three biblical languages, Ciceronian oratory, the 
interpretation of literature, history, and natural science. Vergerio also 
claimed that Jerome had approached theology from well-founded per- 
spectives, utilizing his language skills for the exegesis of Scripture. That 
learning, moreover, constituted a prime element in his sanctity: Jerome 
was a doctor of the Church. At that point in his career, speaking before 
a distinguished audience of Roman clerics, Vergerio boldly confronted 
the problem of Jerome's dream. The dream had only censured excessive 
enthusiasm for humanist studies— not their pursuit. On the contrary, 
Jerome's career demonstrated that one produced a rich Christian theol- 
ogy by interpreting Scripture with sound training in the biblical lan- 
guages and in history. Vergerio juxtaposed such theology to the tedious 
Aristotelian metaphysics he had described in the De ingenuis moribusP 
Furthermore, Jerome exemplified the sort of ethical cleric that the 
Church needed in every era. Jerome had more in common with the vir- 
tuous pagans of antiquity than he did with many clerics of the fifteenth 
century. At a moment when his election to the papacy seemed certain, 
Jerome left Rome for a life of asceticism. In contrast, the popes of 
Vergerio's time clung to their power, causing profound division within 
the institution. God had endowed Jerome with holiness sufficient to 
tame a lion in order to demonstrate that patience and kindness could 
overcome hatred. Innocent VII should approach the rival camp in 
Avignon with such a charitable disposition. ^"^ The panegyric signaled 
that Vergerio's confidence in Innocent VII had lessened over time. He 
now felt that the pope needed public prodding to overcome his hesita- 
tion and to take the steps necessary to end the Schism. 

13 ppv, De ingenuis moribus, Gnesotto, ed., 126: "Scientia vero divina est de altissimis 
causis et rebus quae sunt semotae a nostris sensibus, quas intelligentia tantum attingimus." 
Sermo 8: "turn vero scripturae sacrae veraeque theologiae perceptionem. . . . Nee me deterre- 
ret quod damnatus fuerit eius studii aliquando Hieronymus, cum in extatica visione tractus 
ad iudicis aeterni tribunal et quinam esset interrogatus, pro Christiani nomine quod inter 
metum trepidationemque profitebatur Ciceroniani sibi nomen obici audivit. Neque enim res 
ipsa damnata est (sed fortassis eius studium vehementius) sine qua profecto vix sacrae lit- 
terae, certe non tanta cum voluptate, legerentur." 

'^ Sermo 8: "Cum mundo quippe gessit et vicit, quando sacerdos iam factus et summo 
sacerdotio dignus habitus ab urbe cessit pompisque saeculi et omni ambitioni mundanorum 
honorum renuntiavit. . . . Maledicos benefaciendo vincere et eorum in nos odium virtute pa- 
tientiae mansuetudinis superare." In 1406, Innocent VII had issued a bull approving the Her- 
mits of Saint Jerome of Fiesole. Gregory XII subsequently confirmed that approval; see A 
Gregorio X ad Martinum V, vol. 4 of Bullarium diplomatum et privilegiorum Sanctorum Ro- 
manorum Pontificum (Turin, 1859), 653-54. 

Humanism and Church Reform 143 

Two months later, after the death of Innocent on 6 November 1406, 
Vergerio offered a severely critical assessment of his pontificate. Verge- 
rio addressed the Roman cardinals in a public consistory held prior to 
the opening of the conclave to elect Innocent's successor and conscious- 
ly used blunt language to convince the cardinals that they must post- 
pone the election. He had been encouraged to adopt a more prophetic 
stance after he had discussed the problem of the Schism with Bernardino 
da Siena. The two reformers first met in Viterbo, where Pietro Filargo, 
the cardinal of Milan, had brought Bernardino to visit Innocent VII. 
Bernardino continued to visit the Papal Court right up to the time of In- 
nocent's final illness. Twenty-five years old at the time, Bernardino had 
joined the Franciscan observance in 1402 and had been ordained in Sep- 
tember of 1404. Vergerio and Bernardino shared a common appreciation 
for the theological style of Jerome and a common zeal for reform that 
they discussed during Bernardino's visits to the court. Vergerio used his 
speech to present their mutual analysis of the situation. ^^ 

Vergerio began by tracing the historical evolution of the Roman line 
of popes. The first two, Urban VI and Boniface IX, had shown open 
contempt for those who pressed for reunion. Vergerio specifically cen- 
sured Boniface for his cruel tyranny; only his sudden death had prevent- 
ed the defection of leading members of the Roman observance. Both 
popes had governed according to personal whim, and the Church had 
no constitutional agency like a Parliament to rein in popes who prac- 
ticed such unrestrained freedom [licentia). If Vergerio openly condemned 
the actions of those two popes, he expressed disappointment with Inno- 
cent VII. The brevity of Innocent's reign and the complexity of the issue 

15 "ppy ^ Pro redintegranda uniendaque Ecclesia, Combi, ed., 373: "Liberutis vero dictandi, 
qua sum apud vos usus, veniam impetrat et causae dignitas, quae neglecta mansit, et meum 
ardens, quod est commune aeque Christianis omnibus, votum." On Bernardino's role, see 
ibid., 369-70. In general, see Bruno Korosak, "Bernardino da Siena," in Bibliotheca sancto- 
rum (Rome: Istituto Giovanni XXIII, Pontificia Univ. Lateranense, 1961-69), 2:1303; Iris 
Origo, The World of San Bernardino (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962), 15-28, 
183-205; Walter Brandmiiller, "L'ecclesiologia di San Bernardino da Siena," in Domenico 
Maffei and Paolo Nardi, ed., Atti del simposio intemazionale Cateriniano-Bemardiniano 
(Siena, 17-20 aprile 1980) (Siena: AccademiaSenese degli Intronati, 1982), 404-6; and Cosimo 
Damiano Fonseca, "Bernardino da Siena e la vita del clero del suo tempo: A proposito del 
Sermo V De rectoribus et praelatis," in Atti del simposio intemazionale Cateriniano-Bemardi- 
niano, 502-6. None of those authors mentions the episode described by Vergerio. On the 
speech to the consistory, see Bischoff, Studien, 49, 55-63; Holmes, Florentine Enlightenment, 
56-57; McManamon, "Innovation," 28-30; and Dieter Girgensohn, "Kardinal Antonio Cae- 
tani und Gregor XII. in den Jahren 1406-1408: vom Papstmacher zum Papstgegner," Quel- 
len und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bihliotheken 64 (1984): 146-49. 

144 [ CHAPTER 9 

offered mitigating circumstances. Still, Vergerio revealed to the cardinals 
that he himself had first proposed the ideal of a council and that Inno- 
cent, in endorsing the proposal, had even agreed to resign there. Verge- 
rio thought that Bernardino da Siena had strengthened Innocent's 
resolve to see the plan through. Regrettably, that was not the case: Inno- 
cent wavered until it was too late. Vergerio therefore added Innocent's 
name to the list of popes he reproached for not doing more to end the 
Schism. ^^ 

The blame did not end there. Immediately after his election. Innocent 
had sworn to a capitulation that obliged him to resign, and the cardinals, 
whom Vergerio now addressed, had guaranteed the oath. They must then 
share in his guilt. In fact, the ritual of taking an oath in the conclave had 
severely weakened the collective ethos of the cardinals: "we have seen the 
force of [your] oaths." To underline the error of the Roman party, Verge- 
rio used the classic dilemma of expediency versus morality. In antiquity, 
theoreticians of rhetoric had debated whether political decisions should be 
made on the basis of expediency alone or whether morality must be 
factored into the decision. The Greeks favored expediency, while the 
Romans broadened the criteria to give morality a fundamental role. Ver- 
gerio censured the cardinals for reducing their decisions to matters of expe- 
diency and ignoring morality. They were only interested in maintaining 
their power, not in resolving the Schism.^'' 

Staffed by persons of uncompromising ambition, the Roman Curia 
had continually obstructed any plan for reunion. Vergerio bluntly ob- 
served that many cardinals enter the conclave campaigning for election 
as pope and some even have no scruples about resorting to simony to as- 
sure victory. Did it make sense to believe that one who attained the of- 
fice after such effort and expense would then turn around and resign it? 
Vergerio thought it far more likely that one who attained that supreme 
power "to bind and to loose" would then use the power to loose him- 
self from any hindrances. Vergerio likewise censured the business of the 
Roman Curia. Massive wealth had accumulated to some of its members; 
they profited from the issuing of official papal documents, whose posses- 
sion constituted superficial testimony of faith. Much time was spent in 
consistory litigating disputes over the ownership of property. All of 

16 PPV, Pro redintegranda uniendaque Ecclesia, Combi, ed., 362-63, 365-66, 368-70. 

'^ Ibid., 360-61, 363, and esp. 366: "An in contentione honesti atque utilis, praesertim 
cum praeponderare honestum nemo negat, deliberatione vostra [scripsi: nostra] utile honesio 

Humanism and Church Reform 145 

those specific abuses were part of a general failure on the part of the 
Roman Church, which Vergerio analyzed according to a primitivist 
vision of church history. 

In simplest terms, the Roman Church had become an institution 
which her founders would not recognize. Vergerio had the cardinals im- 
agine that Peter and Paul now reappeared to observe the Roman 
Church. Though the two apostles had "neither silver nor gold" (Acts 
3:6), the Roman Church had amassed incredible wealth. Though the 
early Church held all property in common (Acts 4:32), individuals with 
huge private estates now controlled the community's affairs. The ulti- 
mate origins of the Schism were rooted in the Church's enrichment to 
the benefit of a clerical class. Vergerio even censured artists in his day 
who depicted Peter and Paul dressed in rich garments. They distorted 
the historical reality and offered visual justification for the corruption of 
the Roman Church. Formerly endowed with leaders who concerned 
themselves with the reform of lapsed morals, the Church was now dom- 
inated by a clerical nobility who sought to recover lost territory or for- 
tify that already in their possession.^* 

To dramatize the situation, Vergerio invoked two specters before his 
audience. The Roman clergy faced a genuine possibility of rebellion by 
the lay members of the Church. Exasperated by the unwillingness of the 
clergy to resolve the Schism, secular authorities might well try to im- 
pose a solution.^' Secondly, Vergerio gave the cardinals dramatic proof 
that God would severely punish their immoral behavior. From privi- 
leged knowledge, he revealed that Bernardino da Siena had warned Inno- 
cent of the dire consequences of further delay. Either Innocent would 
act to resolve the Schism and save his pontificate or God would punish 
him for his insolence. Innocent indignantly rejected Bernardino's ultima- 
tum and threw him out of the papal palace. Within days. Innocent con- 
tracted the disease that soon proved fatal .^° One refused to heed a 
prophet's warning at genuine risk. 

'* See ibid., 361-62, 365-66, 368-69; and Gordon Leff, "The Apostolic Ideal in Later 
Medieval Ecclesiology," The Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., 18 (1967): 58-82. 

" PPV, Pro redintegranda uniendaque Ecclesia, Combi, ed., 362, 365-66, 373. 

^ Ibid., 370: "Is igilur, postremo adveniens, mandato se Dei venire dixit, iustum ei de- 
nuntiare, ut ad hoc intenderet, et libere se poneret in manu Dei. Quod si fecisset, eum, 
prout erat, verum unicumque papam mansurum; si minus, celeriter esse puniendum. Quern 
cum ille indignatus repulisset, adiecit is postea abiens, expeditam rem esse, derelictum esse 
hunc hominem a Deo. Itaque post non multos dies incidit in morbum, quo per supremum 
doloris cruciatum extinctus est." 

146 CHAPTER 9 

Vergerio repeatedly urged the cardinals to delay an election in order 
to gain the time necessary for obtaining the resignation of Benedict XIII. 
Then the entire Church might meet in council to elect a new pope and 
see to the reform of the Roman Curia. Circumstances practically dictat- 
ed the wisdom of delaying. Vergerio felt certain that the kingdom of 
France, linchpin for any solution, would shift from the Avignonese to 
the Roman observance if Benedict rejected the overture to resign. More- 
over, Benedict faced pressure from the members of his court, who had 
lost patience as the dispute festered. Vergerio finally emphasized that the 
cardinals would perform an authentic act of charity if they delayed. 
They would no longer take their stand purely on legal rights but sacri- 
fice even legitimate privileges for the sake of union. Till then, they had 
myopically thought to save their control of Rome, while risking the loss 
of the world and their souls. By surrendering their standing, they would 
revitalize their ethos and rally political leaders to the cause of union.^* 

The cardinals refused to postpone their task and elected the Venetian 
Angelo Correr, who took the name Gregory XII (1406-1415, d. 1417). 
The election created embarassment for all those at the Papal Court who 
had opposed the election; that was especially true for Vergerio. The car- 
dinals had subjected Gregory to the customary oath to resign, which 
Vergerio had ridiculed in his speech. Given the ethical dilemma, Verge- 
rio bid to succeed Salutati as chancellor of Florence in late November of 
1406. That having failed, he decided to remain at Rome and continue to 
serve the pope.^^ In the first months after making the difficult decision, 
Vergerio felt a certain sense of vindication. He had achieved an even 
more intimate rapport with Gregory, whom he prodded to accept a 
meeting with Benedict XIII. Vergerio composed a letter to Benedict in 
Gregory's name, in which Gregory went so far as to volunteer to abdi- 
cate for the sake of peace. The popes needed to act quickly because the 
patriarch of Constantinople had recently sent inquiries about possible 
reunion between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. Vergerio 
seemed genuinely enthused: if the rival popes had the courage to act, 
Christ's body might be made one again.^^ 

^' Ibid., 360-61, 364-65, 367-68, 372-74. 

^ Hans Baron, Humanistic and Political Literature in Florence and Venice at the Begin- 
ning of the Quattrocento: Studies in Criticism and Chronology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard 
Univ. Press, 1955), 107-13. On Vergerio's service to Gregory XII, see Bischoff, Studien, 63- 

^ Epist., 305-6 n. 1, 326-29. Vergerio seemed to hope that Manuel Chrysoloras, once he 
had become a Latin Christian, might be elected as a reunion pope. See Vergerio's inscription 

Humanism and Church Reform 147 

Over the course of the next three years, Vergerio found himself in- 
creasingly isolated within the Papal Court as he struggled against the 
"contagion of this place."^^ With increasing vehemence, he castigated 
anyone who opposed the plan for face-to-face negotiations. In the end, 
however, Gregory himself avoided the meeting with Benedict XIII after 
both had agreed to it. Shortly thereafter, Gregory held a public consisto- 
ry at Lucca in which he violated his oath not to appoint further cardi- 
nals. Leonardo Bruni described the tense scene as Gregory forbade any 
of the cardinals to rise and speak. One after another, several of the cardi- 
nals abandoned the hall. When those cardinals fled from Lucca, Gregory 
sent a papal army into Florentine territory to arrest them.^^ Support 
for Gregory began to hemorrhage, yet Vergerio still hesitated to aban- 
don the pope. In September of 1408, Vergerio once again spoke on 
Jerome before the Papal Court then resident at Siena; and once again he 
hammered away at his favorite themes. Jerome exemplified the appropri- 
ateness of secular learning and the importance of interior detachment, 
which he proved by ceding to his enemies and withdrawing from Rome. 

In those troubled years, when Vergerio himself came under attack by 
rivals in Rome, he must have felt a special kinship to Jerome. Vergerio 
found it odd that those men stirred up sinister rumors against him. 
Neither his family background nor his wealth endowed him with great 
standing, which usually aroused their envy. He thus conjectured that 
they resented his special intimacy with Gregory. In 1408, when the 
Papal Court had traveled to Rimini, Vergerio was evicted from a com- 
fortable dwelling by Cardinal Antonio de Calvis. In a letter to Fran- 
cesco Zabarella, Vergerio ridiculed the overbearing cleric, characterizing 
him as a human body with a cow's intelligence. By the summer of 1409, 
with support rapidly eroding, Gregory XII had summoned a council at 
Cividale del Friuli. Vergerio still remained with the pope, apparently 
hoping that he would obtain a benefice as deacon in Cividale, the place 

for the tomb of Chrysoloras in Guarino Guarini da Verona, Epistolario, Remigio Sabbadini, 
ed., Miscellanea di storia veneta 8, 11, 14 (Venice, 1915-19), 1:114: "vir doctissimus pruden- 
tissimus optimus, qui tempore generalis concilii Constantiensis diem obiit [15 April 1415] 
ea existimatione ut ab omnibus summo sacerdotio dignus haberetur. ..." 

" Epist., 315. 

" Leonardo Bruni, Epistolarum libri VIII, Laurentius Mehus, ed. (Florence, 1741), 59-65 
{Ep. 2.21). An English translation by Gordon Griffiths is published in The Humanism of Leo- 
nardo Bruni: Selected Texts, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies 46, in conjunction with 
The Renaissance Society of America: Renaissance Texts Series 10 (Binghamton, N.Y., 1987), 

148 CHAPTER 9 

where he had been happiest during his childhood. Instead, he found 
himself in the most serious trouble of his life. During a brief visit to 
Venice, he was seen by one of Gregory's nephews on a boat owned by 
acquaintances from Ferrara. Assuming that Vergerio was trying to sneak 
away to the Council of Pisa, the papal nephew had him detained. After 
a night under house arrest, Vergerio managed to clarify his position and 
regain his freedom.^^ 

In late summer of 1409, the Council of Cividale concluded its delib- 
erations without succeeding in rallying support for Gregory. When Ver- 
gerio failed to gain a benefice, he left the Papal Court and returned to 
his hometown of Capodistria. It must have been an especially bitter pill 
for him to swallow. He closed himself off in silent isolation for almost 
two years and only broke his silence to congratulate Francesco Zabarella 
when the antipope John XXIII (1410-1415) named him a cardinal in 
1411. Vergerio followed that initial communication with a flurry of let- 
ters to Zabarella which betrayed his violent shifts of mood in Capodi- 
stria.^'' Vergerio once commiserated with his close friend, characteriz- 
ing his rise in rank as an ironic lowering of status. Zabarella now found 
himself on the lowest rung of the seniority ladder, and he was saddled 
with the considerable expense of maintaining a household befitting his 
status. Vergerio's next letter, however, indicated his readiness to join 
that household at a moment's notice. Zabarella quickly stilled his enthu- 
siasm by warning him to eat all that he could before coming to Rome, 
where he would risk starvation. Vergerio asked Zabarella for a copy of 
the declaration by John XXIII forgiving all debts owed to the Holy See; 
perhaps he had such debts himself. The same letter excoriated the 
tawdry spectacle that followed a major cleric's death in Rome. While the 
cleric himself faced probable punishment in hell, given the high percent- 

^^ See Epist., 304-6, 316-19, 328-29; Pio Paschini, ^nfonio Caetani Cardinale Aquileiese 
(Rome, 1931), 59-60; and Philip J. Jones, The Malatesta of Rimini and the Papal State (Cam- 
bridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), 127-33. According to Vittorio Zacca- 
ria, Vergerio did not participate in the Council of Cividale and was represented at negotia- 
tions for the benefice by Niccolo del Tacco, a canon of Capodistria; see his "Niccolo Leo- 
nardi, i suoi corrispondenti e una lettera inedita di Pier Paolo Vergerio," Atti e memorie 
delta Accademia di scienze, lettere ed arti in Padova, n.s., 95 (1982-83): 107-8 n. 41. 

^^ See Epist., 330-43; and Agostino Sottili, "La questione ciceroniana in una lettera di 
Francesco Zabarella a Francesco Petrarca (tav. FV)," Quademi per la storia dell'Universita di 
Padova 6 (1973): 34-35. On the radicalization of Zabarella's thought, see Thomas E. Morris- 
sey, "Franciscus Zabarella (1360-1417): Papacy, Community, and Limitations Upon Author- 
ity," in Guy Fitch Lytle, ed.. Reform and Authority in the Medieval and Reformation Church 
(Washington, D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1981), 37-45, 47-54. 

Humanism and Church Reform 149 

age of immoral persons at that rank, his debtors and the Apostolic Cam- 
era battled for his inheritance. Vergerio's mood rarely seemed more de- 
spondent than the day on which he wrote to Zabarella to narrate the 
tragedy of a peasant family from the Euganean hills near Padua. The 
place that had supplied the two scholars with respite during their days 
in Padua had turned into a diabolic sort of killing field. An entire family 
had suffered a tragic series of deaths, for which Vergerio attributed 
responsibility to fortune alone.^^ 

Vergerio ultimately accepted an invitation from Zabarella to rejoin 
him at the Papal Court on the eve of the Council of Constance (1414- 
1418).^' The years of the council marked a turning point in Vergerio's 
life. He exchanged letters with a new generation of humanists in the Ve- 
neto, to whom he bequeathed his most cherished educational ideals.^ 
In 1414, he praised Gasparino Barzizza as a true intellectual of ethos 
who had dedicated himself to training adolescents in the practice of rhet- 
oric. Over the next fifteen years, Barzizza helped to codify Ciceronian 

^ Epist, 341-43. Vergerio described how the family's tragedy worsened through a tragic 
series of errors. Having watched their father castrate bulls, two sons did the same thing to 
their baby brother. Realizing their error from the baby's screams, they hid in the bread 
oven and fell asleep. When their mother returned from the fields, she lit the oven as she 
hurried to prepare the evening meal. In horrifying sequence, she discovered that she had im- 
molated the elder sons and that the baby had bled to death. When her husband returned, 
he killed his pregnant wife in a fit of mad rage and was awaiting his own execution. See also 
Remo L. Guidi, Aspetti religiosi nella letteratura del Quattrocento (Rome and Vicenza: Libre- 
ria Intemazionale Edizioni Francescane, 1973-83), 5:71-72, 612-13. 

^ Smith, Epist, 351 n. 1. For Vergerio's activities in the first years of the council, see 
Walter Brandmiiller, Bis zur Abreise Sigismunds nach Narbonne, vol. 1 of Das Konzil von 
Konstanz 1414-1418 (Padebom et al.: Schoningh, 1991), 117, 164, 399 (where Brandmiiller 
failed to identify the "Dr. iur. utr. Pietro Paolo da Capodistria" with Vergerio). 

" Epist, 351-52 (PPV to Barzizza), esp. 352: "cum tradendae artis rhetoricae curam 
susceperis, tantum in promovendis adulescentibus et studio tuo et felicitate quadam valueris, 
ut iam plurimos qui probe ex arte dicere valeant proferre possis. Qui si morum quoque prae- 
cepta sequentur et vivendo te imitabuntur, duplicis gloriae fructum ex tua conversatione re- 
portabunt." Ibid., 356-59 (Guarino to PPV), esp. 358: "Nam, quotiens Manuel Chrysoloras 
. . . venit in mentem, nonne et ille tibi magnum quempiam et eloquentissimum expetere ora- 
torem videtur, qui eum non tam sui quam posteritatis gratia scriptis exprimeret, ut homines 
integerrimum, optimum, sapientissimum, sanctissimum virum sicut publicum quoddam in- 
tuerentur speculum et exemplar, unde sibi bene beateque vivendi praecepta proponerent et 
ab eo, qui caelestem in terris vitam egit, imitationem virtutis haurirent?" Ibid., 360-62 (PPV 
to Niccolo Leonardi); and Margaret L. King, Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician 
Dominance (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), 10. I am aware of fifty-one manu- 
scripts, which, in all likelihood, contain the letter to Niccolo on Barbaro's De re uxoria {Ep. 
137 in Smith's edition). On Vergerio's inscription for the tomb of Chrysoloras at Con- 
stance, see Guarino, Epist, Sabbadini, ed., 1:112-14; Giuseppe Cuvamelli, Manuele Crisolora, 
vol. 1 oil dotti bizantini e le origini dell'umanesimo (Florence: Vallecchi, 1941), 167-70; Zac- 
caria, "Niccolo Leonardi," 100 n. 25; and Brandmiiller, Bis zur Abreise Sigismunds, vol. 1 of 
Das Konzil, 51-52, 151-52. 

150 CHAPTER 9 

Standards by writing a series of rhetorical textbooks. In 1415, Vergerio 
received a letter from Guarino da Verona after Vergerio had written to 
propose a posthumous memorial for Manuel Chrysoloras. Guarino in- 
sisted that Vergerio was the proper Phidias to immortalize their Greek 
professor. In subsequent years, Guarino made Vergerio's De ingenuis 
moribus the basis for his influential pedagogy. Finally, Vergerio wrote a 
brief letter to his friend Niccolo Leonardi, applauding Francesco Bar- 
baro's De re uxoria. Vergerio approved the treatise on wifely duties for 
its precepts and eloquence. Later publishers used Vergerio's letter as the 
ideal endorsement for Barbaro's tract. 

At the council itself, Vergerio twice performed official functions. In 
1414, he was named one of the examiners of the voting {scrutator). The 
following year, he participated in the council's diplomatic embassy to 
the Iberian kings and to Benedict XIII. The emperor Sigismund himself 
led that delegation, and the contacts between emperor and humanist laid 
the grounds for their future collaboration. Vergerio received no further 
mention in the records of the council until the summer of 1417, when 
he became involved in a dispute over procedural matters, which tempo- 
rarily ruptured his close ties to Francesco Zabarella. Vergerio sided with the 
emperor Sigismund, who wished to see the council delay the election of a 
pope until it had attended to the reform of the Roman Curia. Zabarella 
favored allowing the cardinals to elect a pope and then, under papal leader- 
ship, having the council attack problems of church reform.^^ 

On 10 August 1417, following the common university practice for 
announcing a disputation, Vergerio posted on the doors of the churches 
of Constance a series of propositions that he was willing to defend pub- 
licly.^^ He was responding to members of the cardinals' party who had 
drafted theses a month earlier; they argued that the council should not 
postpone the papal election. Most cardinals at Constance preferred to 
proceed with the election in order to have the greatest say in that choice 
and to limit the emperor's influence over subsequent questions of re- 
form. Their July theses condemned those who urged delay for the pur- 
poses of reform; once the pope was elected, he would attend to the 
problems afflicting church government. The party of the cardinals vili- 

^' See Gasparo Zonta, Francesco Zabarella (1360-1417) (Padua, 1915), 110-13; Smith, 
Epist., 370-73 n. 1; and Thomas E. Morrissey, "Emperor-Elect Sigismund, Cardinal Zaba- 
rella, and the Council of Constance," The Catholic Historical Review 69 (1983): 366-70. 

^^ See PPV, Quaestiones de Ecclesiae potestate in Finke, ed.. Acta, 3:667-69 (where Ver- 
gerio is described as a doctor of medicine and civil and canon law as well as "poet laure- 
ate"); and Bischoff, Studien, 73-76. The rebuttal offered by the party of the cardinals is 
found in Finke, ed.. Acta, 3:669-70. 

Humanism and Church Reform 151 

fied the imperial party for disrupting the council. By such behavior, the 
emperor's adherents fomented continuing division within the Church, 
even though they claimed to contribute to its resolution. Ominously, 
the theses offered by the cardinals' party suggested a taint of Hussitism 
in anyone who dared to affirm the contrary. 

Vergerio nevertheless attempted a reply on the emperor's behalf, 
and, by using the typically Scholastic medium of the quaestio, he com- 
pounded the personal risks. On previous occasions, Vergerio had minced 
no words in censuring clerical immorality. But those sentiments were ut- 
tered in public speeches, and rhetoricians had always granted the proba- 
ble nature of the truth they affirmed. Now, however, he resorted to a 
medium that initiated a process of disputation conceived to determine 
definitive truths. Responding directly to the insinuation of heresy, Ver- 
gerio claimed that the imperial party had elaborated an ecclesiology con- 
trary to that of Hus but respectful of the council's authority to decide 
the manner and time for the election. In effect, Vergerio suggested that 
the Church had the best opportunity to reform itself in the absence of 
a pope. Historically, the popes had often hindered any serious reform 
activity. Without an all-powerful monarch seated on the throne of Peter, 
the Church had incomparable freedom to act. Were the cardinals to 
elect a pope without first attacking the moral problems of the institu- 
tion, no serious reform would ever take place. Vergerio's past experience 
with popes like Innocent VII and Gregory XII had made him skeptical 
that the popes desired to put their own house in order. 

Because Vergerio advocated the imperial position, he risked a trial 
for heresy. When the emperor's opponents harshly denounced his 
theses, he withdrew his offer to debate their content publicly. Eventual- 
ly, the cardinals and the representatives of the five nations elected Mar- 
tin V (1417-1431), and Vergerio was given a post in the imperial court. 
However, before either of those events occurred, Francesco Zabarella 
died on 2 September 1417. His death elicited from Vergerio a moving 
tribute in the form of an epistolary eulogy. The eulogy was his final 
pronouncement on the intellectual's role in Church government. Char- 
acteristically, Vergerio contrasted Zabarella's heroism with the incompe- 
tence and immorality of the majority of churchmen.^^ Throughout his 
career, Zabarella had struggled against his own reticence to rise within 

" See Epist, 362-78; and Gregorio Piaia, "La fondazione filosofica dellateoria conciliare 
in Francesco Zabarella," in Antonino Poppi, ed., Scienza efilosqfia all'Universita di Padova 
nel Quattrocento, Contributi alia storia dell'Universita di Padova 15 (Padua: Centro per la 
storia deH'Universita, and Trieste: LINT, 1983), 431-37. 

152 CHAPTER 9 

the ecclesiastical hierarchy. To Vergerio, Zabarella seemed odd for two 
reasons: he did not seek promotion, and he was eminently qualified to 
receive it.^'* Had Zabarella not died suddenly, Vergerio felt certain that 
the council would have chosen him as the pope to reunify Christendom. 
As such, Zabarella would have been the antithesis of the preceding 
popes, whom Vergerio named in the letter. Boniface IX had proven 
himself an avaricious simoniac, Gregory XII a liar, and John XXIII an 
almost total incompetent. Vergerio looked back upon the history of the 
Schism and argued that it had lasted so scandalously long due to the in- 
transigence of popes and clergy. The Church generally suffered from ex- 
cessive ambition on the part of its ministers. Francesco Zabarella had 
shown himself anything but ambitious. He offered supreme proof of his 
pastoral dedication by helping to organize the Council of Constance and 
by risking his own reputation to steer it toward a successful conclusion. 
Despite their disagreement over ways of proceeding, which Vergerio at- 
tributed to haste on the part of the cardinals, the two had remained 
close friends. Zabarella's contribution as professor and scholar were also 
readily visible at the council. His former students filled the hall at Con- 
stance, belying any divorce between learning and piety. Through his let- 
ter, Vergerio helped to shape a portrait of his friend and patron that re- 
flected humanist ideals. In medium and message, humanists like Vergerio 
have proven effective makers of Renaissance myths.^^ With Zabarella's 
death, Vergerio lost his closest link to the Paduan and Roman past. His 
future was with the emperor Sigismund who rewarded Vergerio for his 
support during the council's controversies by hiring him to serve in the 
imperial government. Vergerio had finally succeeded in his long quest 
for a political position that would allow him to practice his humanist 
skills. After the council, Vergerio left Constance for Buda and Prague. 
Ironically, at that moment of personal triumph, Vergerio receded into 
the shadows of history. 

^^ Vergerio even listed the offices that Zabarella did not receive. In the 1380s, the Flor- 
entine chapter had elected Zabarella as their bishop despite the fact that he was a young for- 
eigner. Vergerio characterized their judgment as much more prudent than that of Pope Ur- 
ban VI, who ovenurned the election in favor of his candidate. Vergerio claimed that 
Zabarella would have been named a cardinal in 1398 if Boniface EX had not valued money 
over virtue. In 1409, Zabarella refused his election as bishop of Padua because it might seem 
a challenge to Gregory XII during the Council of Pisa. In 1411, John XXIQ finally awarded 
Zabarella the red hat that he so richly deserved. Vergerio conceded faint praise to John, not- 
ing that his appointment of learned cardinals ranked among the few memorable deeds of his 
brief period in office. Cf. Epist., 346. 

^^ John M. McManamon, Funeral Oratory and the Cultural Ideals of Italian Humanism 
(Chapel Hill, N.C., and London: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1989), 11-16, 66-68. 


Imperial Bureaucrat 

On 21 May 1418, in the company of the emperor SIgismund, Pier- 
paolo Vergerio left Constance for Buda. For almost twenty years, 
until Sigismund's death in 1437, Vergerio served the emperor in a varie- 
ty of functions. Despite the sketchy character of the documentary evi- 
dence, it seems clear that Sigismund sought to utilize the full range of 
Vergerio's talents. Vergerio's legal training, his firsthand knowledge of 
northern Italian politics, his experience with church government, and 
his expertise in the Latin and Greek languages all contributed to his 
worth at the imperial court. Given Vergerio's dual degree in civil and 
canon law, Sigismund had Vergerio accompany him when he convoked 
an assize in various parts of the realm. ^ Those official convocations of 
the emperor's court treated disputes at the highest levels of imperial ad- 
ministration. Already in November of 1418, Vergerio signed himself as 
a witness to the judgment that Sigismund rendered at Passau in Bavaria 
against a group of exiles from Toul. From 1424 to 1425, Vergerio also 
witnessed decisions in separate disputes that pitted Eric of Pomerania, 
the king of Denmark, against the nobles of Holstein and Giinther von 
Schwarzburg, the archbishop of Magdeburg, against the city of Halle.^ 

' See Wilhelm Altmann, ed.,Die Urkunden Kaiser Sigmunds (1410-37), vol. 11 of Regesta 
Imperii (Innsbruck, 1896-1900), 1:261 (#3714), 1:298 (#4233a), 1:418 (#5894), 1:419 (#5911), 
2:12 (#6199), 2:14-15 (#6247); and Leonardo Smith, Epist, 379-82 n. 1. The assizes convoked 
from 1424 to 1425 met at Buda (Ofen), Visegrad (Blindeburg), and Tata (Totis). 

^ With the support of the Danish Diet (1413) and Sigismund (1424), Eric of Pomerania 
launched two unsuccessful wars against the counts of Holstein (1416-22, 1426-35). For the 
dispute between Archbishop Giinther and Halle, see Joseph Von Aschbach, Die Zeit der 
Hussitenkriege bis zur Eroffhung des Basler Konzils, vol. 3 of Geschichte Kaiser Sigmunds 
(Hamburg, 1841; repr. Aalen, Germ.: Scientia Verlag, 1964), 3:232-33. 

154 CHAPTER 10 

Vergerio shared those official responsibilities with other courtiers 
from Italy such as Brunoro della Scala, Ognibene Scola, Bertoldo Orsini, 
and Ludovico Cattaneo. In fact, Sigismund had gathered a group of Ital- 
ian expatriates whose previous experience made them valuable counsel- 
ors as he pursued his reactionary dream of regaining a measure of direct 
control over former imperial possessions in Italy. That failing, Sigis- 
mund at least sought to challenge Venetian occupations in the frontier 
regions of Friuli and Dalmatia.^ Typically, he blundered when he 
moved to achieve both of those goals. For Vergerio, it must have been 
a pleasure to see Ognibene Scola once again. The two had met twenty- 
five years earlier at Padua, where Scola had become a trusted advisor to 
Francesco Novello. Subsequently, Vergerio had Scola deliver a prized 
copy of his De ingenuis moribus to Coluccio Salutati. Strongly anti- Vene- 
tian in sentiment and married to a Veronese citizen, Scola had participat- 
ed in the unsuccessful revolt to restore Brunoro della Scala to power in 
1412. Now, the two itinerant scholars seemed amenable toward a 
pro-imperial politics for the northern Italian world that had nurtured 
their humanist and legal skills.^ 

Because of Vergerio's knowledge of church politics and his experi- 
ence at the Papal Court, the emperor gave him important responsibili- 
ties as he attempted to resolve the thorniest problem of his reign. 
Vergerio immediately assisted the efforts to end the rebellion that had 
erupted in Bohemia after Jan Hus was executed at the Council of Con- 
stance. The Hussite question robbed Sigismund of the opportunity to 
savor his moment as the "new Constantine" who had sponsored the 

' Denys Hay and John Law, Italy in the Age of the Renaissance, 1380-1530, Longman 
History of Italy (London and New York: Longman, 1989), 235. 

* See Carlo Cipolla, La storia politica di Verona, Ottavio Pellegrini, ed. (Verona, 1900; 
rev. ed., Verona: Edizioni Valdonega, 1954), 212-14; Roberto Cessi, "Nuove ricerche su 
Ognibene Sco\z," Archivio storico lombardo 36, fasc. 23 (1909): 115-26; and Smith, Epist., 
208n. Scola was present at Passau in 1418, at Visegrad in 1424, and again at Tata in 1425. In 
the latter instance, Ludovico Cattaneo da Verona also witnessed the document. In 1426, 
Vergerio had occasion to renew his acquaintance with Antonio Loschi when Loschi received 
the poet's laurel while on an embassy to the emperor Sigismund. See Germano Gualdo, 
"Antonio Loschi, segretario apostolico (1406-1436)," Archivio storico italiano 147, no. 4 
(1989): 750-64; and Dieter Girgensohn, "Antonio Loschi und Baldassare Cossa vor dem 
Pisaner Konzil (mit der Oratio pro unione ecclesiae)," IMU 30 (1987): 30-35. There is no evi- 
dence that Vergerio accompanied Sigismund to his crowning as king of Italy at Milan in 
1431 or to his imperial coronation at Rome in 1433. See Poggio Bracciolini's famous descrip- 
tion of the event in Helene Harth, ed., Lettere a Niccolo Niccoli, vol. 1 oi Lettere (Florence: 
Olschki, 1984), 119-25 (English translation by Phyllis Gordan, Two Renaissance Book 
Hunters: The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis, Records of Civiliza- 
tion: Sources and Studies 91 [New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1974], 176-81). 

Imperial Bureaucrat 155 

reunion council and kept it in session through the dark days when John 
XXIII had abandoned the meeting. Sigismund had badly miscalculated 
the council's approach to the question of Hus's orthodoxy. Rather than 
absolve the Czech preacher, as Sigismund had anticipated, the council 
condemned him as a heretic. That put the emperor in a quite vulnerable 
position: having granted Hus safe conduct, he had nonetheless allowed 
his burning at the stake. Sigismund actually changed his mind about the 
wisdom of protecting Hus once he had become convinced that the 
Czech reformer was really a heretical subversive. After Hus's death in 
1415, Sigismund tried to mollify the anger among his supporters by pro- 
posing that the council allow the Bohemians to continue to receive com- 
munion under both species. The council agreed to reexamine its earlier 
decree prohibiting the practice. However, on 22 February 1418, the 
council issued a definitive condemnation of communion under both spe- 
cies, and war soon erupted in Bohemia. The rebellion prevented Sigis- 
mund from obtaining the crown of Bohemia after his brother Wenceslas 
IV died in 1419. Infuriated, Sigismund decided to settle the matter by 
recourse to arms, always his weakest suit.^ On 17 March 1420, Pope 
Martin V issued a bull declaring a crusade against the Hussite rebellion; 
Vergerio figured among those who promulgated the bull at Kutna Hora 
(Kuttenberg) in the diocese of Prague on 16 August 1420. 

Sigismund's motley army of Germans and mercenaries laid siege to 
Prague, but stiff resistance from the Hussite camp forced the emperor to 
withdraw. He again shifted tactics and tried to negotiate a solution. On 
8 February 1421, the Hussites of Prague published a letter announcing 
the results of a colloquy between Catholic and Hussite theologians. The 
theologians had debated the four articles which Jakoubek of Stf ibro had 
formulated to specify Hussite demands. The emperor selected Vergerio 
as the official orator who would communicate the final position of the 
Catholic camp. The moment offered precisely the sort of political op- 
portunity for which Vergerio had honed his humanist training: before 
an audience of the most powerful nobles, he had to convey a political 
decision of the utmost importance for the peace of the empire. Three 
notaries from each side stood ready to record the decision. According to 

^ As a legate for Pope Martin V, Cardinal Giovanni Dominici visited Sigismund in 1418 
in order to convince him that a crusade was necessary against the Hussites. That afforded 
Vergerio an opportunity to see a former antagonist in the debate over humanist studies. 
Dominici died at Buda in 1419; see Giorgio Cracco, "Banchini, Giovanni di Domenico," 
DBI 5:662. 

156 CHAPTER 10 

the Hussite account, Vergerio emphasized the substantial accord reached 
between the disputants. They fully concurred on the demands articulat- 
ed in three of the four articles. Even in the case of the fourth, which 
posited communion under both species, the two camps had endorsed the 
practice as permissible and commendable. However, the Catholic side 
objected to making the practice obligatory because the scriptural evi- 
dence did not establish that Jesus had explicitly enjoined it. Vergerio 
concluded by offering the emperor's optimistic opinion that "with the 
Lord's help, even on this point we hope that there will be concord." 
The crowd purportedly erupted in spontaneous cries of joy. 

Within weeks of the colloquy, however. Catholic participants denied 
the veracity of the Hussite version; the Catholic delegates had actually 
insisted on significant revision of all four articles. Intransigent militants 
on both sides seized the opportunity to foment discord, and the emper- 
or in turn resumed a belligerent stance. In August of 1421, Sigismund in- 
vaded Bohemia for a second time, and in January of 1422, the rebel 
forces once again won a decisive victory against the emperor's army. By 
1432, many lost battles led Sigismund to sponsor discussions between a 
Hussite delegation and a commission of the Council of Basel. In 1433, 
those negotiations yielded an agreement known as the Compactata, 
which in effect contained imperial endorsement for the justice of all four 
articles discussed by the theologians twelve years earlier. After the em- 
peror announced the agreement at the Diet of Iglau in 1436, he finally 
managed to attain the crown of Bohemia, which he wore for only a few 
months until his death in 1437. Nationalist sentiments fed by religious 
dissension transformed central Europe into a roiling cauldron of hatred. 
Agreement at Constance on allowing the laity to receive communion 
from the chalice might have spared Christendom "much anguish." Ver- 
gerio had used his oratorical skills to persuade the contending sides to 
focus their efforts on that precise issue.^ His failure mirrored in many 

^ Epist., 461-63. Francis Oakley supplies background on Hus and the controversies and 
gives further bibliography in 7??e Western Church in the Later Middle Ages (Ithaca, N.Y., and 
London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1979), 195-203, 294-301. Oakley states that the four articles 
were: (1) that there be free preaching of God's Word; (2) that the Eucharist be freely admin- 
istered under both kinds, bread and wine, to all the faithful; (3) that all priests, including the 
pope, should give up all superfluity of temporal possessions and live as models; and (4) that 
the realm be cleansed of all public mortal sins. The judgment on the importance of the arti- 
cle on communion under both species was offered by Hans-Georg Beck et al. in Hubert 
Jedin and John Dolan, eds., and Anselm Biggs, trans.. From the High Middle Ages to the Eve 
of the Reformation, vol. 4 of History of the Church (New York: Seabury, 1982), 472: "If there 
could have been an accommodation at Constance in regard to the chalice, Christendom 

Imperial Bureaucrat 157 

ways the broader failures of Sigismund, who consistently suffered defeat at 
the hands of the Hussites, lost his last outposts in northeastern Italy, and 
saw Philip the Good annex imperial fiefs for the duchy of Burgundy. 

Vergerio also served Sigismund as a court scholar. Somewhat ironi- 
cally, given the lamentable state of Sigismund's imperial authority, he 
had Vergerio translate into Latin the Greek works of Flavins Arrianus, 
the Anabasis Alexandri and the Indike. A talented general and imperial 
administrator under the emperor Hadrian, Arrian had given the Roman 
world a straightforward account of the life of Alexander the Great, 
avoiding the tendentious extremes of previous biographers.^ The com- 
mission gave Vergerio an opportunity to reflect on the historian's craft 
and the translator's methods. Vergerio censured three groups of histori- 
ans for undermining the discipline's credibility: those who pandered to 
popular taste by recording unsubstantiated rumors, those who sought to 
secure funds or settle accounts by inflating or libeling a patron's reputa- 
tion, and those who slighted matters of content by occupying them- 
selves with style alone. In treating Alexander the Great, Arrian had con- 
sulted the best sources, and he applied sound methods in using those 
sources. Good history could be well written and faithful to the evi- 
dence.^ In determining the proper approach to translation, Vergerio set- 
tled on a middle course. He rejected a word-for-word rendering and con- 
sidered any attempt to recreate the elegance of Greek prose in Latin to 
be futile. Vergerio aimed to present the sense of Arrian's text in a trans- 
lation that would be comprehensible to the broadest audience of read- 



Vergerio's translation was so plodding that later humanists retranslat- 
ed the works. Enea Silvio Piccolomini found Vergerio's autograph man- 
uscript, and in 1454 sent the codex to humanists at the court of Alfonso 
I of Naples. With the help of Greek scholars such as Niccolo da Sagun- 
dino and Theodore Gaza, Bartolomeo Facio and Giacomo Curio com- 
pleted a revision by 1461. While Piccolomini attributed flaws in Verge- 

would probably have been spared much anguish." 

' See Epist, 379-84; and Philip A. Stadter, "Arrianus, Flavius," CTC 3:3-6. In 1421, 
Giovanni Aurispa brought the first known Western manuscript of Arrian from the Orient 
to Rome. Smith, Epist, lix-lx, speculates that Sigismund obtained a copy of that manuscript 
when he came to Rome in 1433 for his imperial coronation. 

* Epist., 381-83. In a letter to Scipione Carteromacho in 1509, Giovanni Andrea Verge- 
rio "Favonio" sought information about a De gestis Sigismundi Regis Pannoniae that Verge- 
rio wrote. No trace of such a work has ever been found; see Smith, Epist, Ivii-lx. 

' Epist, 383-84. 

158 CHAPTER 10 

rio's translation to creeping senility, Facio bluntly claimed that Vergerio 
had gone mad in old age. An editor who publishes a new edition of a 
work must justify himself and rather naturally starts by pointedly criti- 
cizing the previous one.^° 

In addition to the translation, Vergerio also etched his mark upon 
the development of humanism in central and eastern Europe, ^^ His pe- 
culiar approach reached young humanists in that region through his re- 
lationship with loannes Vitez (ca. 1408-1472). Vitez eventually obtained 
a number of Vergerio 's books with his autograph glosses on Latin 
authors like Seneca and Lucan.^^ Whether through direct contact or 
through the mediation of the glossed manuscripts, Vergerio gave Vitez 
a model of Latin epistolary style and humanist textual philology and 
stoked his passion for classical authors, especially for Cicero. Vitez man- 
aged to disseminate those lessons when he became chancellor to King 
Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490), and the king rewarded Vitez for his sup- 

'° For Piccolomini's judgment, see Epist., 380n: "Paulus, ut videbis, senio confractus est 
et ad sepulchrum festinat." Facio included his analysis in a short biography of Vergerio 
(ibid., 483): "Sub extremum vitae tempus mente captus est. . . ." Ludovico Odassi corrected 
the Facio-Curlo translation for the first printed edition at Pesaro in 1508. In 1575, at the re- 
quest of Henricus Stephanus, Bonaventure de Smet prepared a new Latin version of the text 
and ridiculed the work of Facio and his team. See ibid., 381n; and Stadter, "Arrianus," CTC 
3:8, 15-17. 

" Smith, Epist., xxix-xxx, 388-90n, suggests that, shortly before his death in Buda, Ver- 
gerio may have met Gregorius Sanoceus (Gregorz z Sanoka / Gregor von Sanok), loannes 
Vitez Qanos / Ivan Vitez), and Vitez's nephew lanus Pannonius (Ivan Cesmicki), who men- 
tioned Vergerio in his panegyric of Guarino. Filippo Buonaccorsi "Callimaco" claimed that 
Gregorius Sanoceus followed Vergerio's prose style (ibid., 480): "Nam Paulus quidem ora- 
tione plurimum valebat. . . ." See further Eugenio Koltay-Kastner, "L'umanesimo italiano in 
Ungheria," La Rinascita 2 (1939): 12-24 (who alleged without offering any proof that Verge- 
rio headed the royal chancery in Buda); Drazen Budisa, "Humanism in Croatia," in Albert 
Rabil, Jr., ed.. Humanism Beyond Italy, vol. 2 of Renaissance Humanism: Foundations, Forms, 
and Legacy (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), 282-84; Marianna D. Bim- 
baum, "Humanism in Hungary," in Albert Rabil, Jr., ed., Humanism Beyond Italy, vol. 2 
of Renaissance Humanism, 295-99; and Ian Thomson, "The Scholar as Hero in lanus Pan- 
nonius' Panegyric on Guarinus Veronensis," Renaissance Quarterly 44 (1991): 197-98. 

'^ See the important discoveries of Klara Csapodi-Gardonyi, Die Bibliothek des Johannes 
Vitez, Studia Humanitatis: Veroffentlichungen der Arbeitsgruppe fiir Renaissanceforschung 
6 (Budapest: Akademia Kiado, 1984), 20-28. Csapodi-Gardonyi posited a lengthy stay by 
Vergerio at Nagy-Varad (Grosswardein) sometime between 1437 and his death in 1444. She 
also feels that the manuscripts prove that Vergerio carried on some sort of official teaching 
activity during his years in imperial service. Nagy-Varad today lies in Romania and is called 
Oradea Mare. It is the capital and chief town of the Bihor district in northwestern Romania, 
approximately fourteen kilometers from the Hungarian frontier. In a letter written in 1445 
that served as the prologue to his Epistolario, Vitez emphasized that Jerome and other holy 
doctors frequently cited the classical orators in their works; see loannes Vitez de Zredna, 
Opera quae supersunt, Ivan Boronkai, ed., Bibliotheca scriptorum Medii Recentisque Aevo- 
rum, n.s., 3 (Budapest: Akademia Kiado, 1980), 31. 

Imperial Bureaucrat 159 

port in 1465 by naming him archbishop of Esztergom (Gran). In keep- 
ing with his dedication to humanist ideals, Vitez sent his nephew lanus 
Pannonius to study under Guarino in Italy and further glossed the pre- 
cious texts he had obtained from Vergerio. Some of those manuscripts 
consequently found their way into the magnificent library of Corvi- 

In his spare time from official duties, Vergerio returned to exploring 
the communicative powers of humor. At the University of Bologna, 
around the age of twenty, Vergerio had written a Latin comedy in the 
style of Terence. The moral of his ribald plot emphasized that educators 
should concentrate on forming character. In his sixties, Vergerio tran- 
scribed a small group oi facetiae, humorous anecdotes which reflected his 
concern for the "moral" of any good tale. The amusing stories func- 

" On paleographical grounds, namely the identity between the hand of Vergerio in cod. 
Marc. lat. XrV.54 (4328) and the hand that wrote the glosses, Csapodi-Gardonyi assigned the 
following manuscripts to the library of Vergerio: 1) Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Tragoediae, 
Oxford, Bodleian, cod. Auct. F.I.14 (2481.599); 2) Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Tragoediae, Trent, 
Museo and Bibl. Nazionale, cod. W.43 (which she describes as an exact copy of the Oxford 
text including initials by the same artist; see Kristeller, Iter 6:232a-b, for clarification of 
errors in Csapodi-Gardonyi's references); 3) Titus Livius, Historiarum decades tres: I., Ill, 
IV., Vienna, Ost. Nationalbibliothek, cod. Lat. 3099; 4) Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalio- 
rum libri X, ibid., cod. Lat. 100 (according to the colophon on fol. 95, the codex was copied 
originally by Martino da Trieste in 1338); 5) Franciscus Maironis, Quaestiones super L libro 
Sententiarum, ibid., cod. Lat. 4792 (the identification of Vergerio's hand in this codex poses 
problems because the codex has a date of 1449 at the end; Csapodi-Gardonyi therefore sug- 
gested that Vergerio may not have died in 1444 or, more likely, that the date was added 
later to the codex); 6) Misc. philosophica, Paris, Bibl. Nationale, cod. Lat. 6390 (glosses of 
Vergerio on fols. 69, 83, 93, 95); 7) Lapus CASteWiunculus, A llegationes abbreviatae per Anto- 
nium de Butrio, Gulielmus de Holborch, Collectio condusionum, determinationum et decisio- 
num Rotae ab anno 1376 usque ad annum 1381, Vienna, Ost. Nationalbibliothek, cod. Lat. 
4229 (glosses of Vergerio on fols. 3v, 5, 8, 11?); 8) Grammatica Latina, Budapest, University 
Library (Eotvos Lorand Tudomany Egyetem Konyvtara), cod. Lat. 23 (note of Vergerio on 
fol. 108). On historical grounds, namely the existence of codices in the library of Vitez or 
Corvinus that were originally written in Italy late in the fourteenth or early in the fifteenth 
century, some of which were returned to Hungary by the sultan of Turkey in 1877, she sug- 
gested that the following codices may also have come from Vergerio's library: 9) Albucasis, 
Chyrurgia, translatio Latina Gerardus Cremonensis, Budapest, University Library, cod. Lat. 
15; 10) Aristoteles, Physica, Averroes, De substantia orbis, ibid., cod. Lat. 16; 11) Misc. philo- 
sophica, ibid., cod. Lat. 17 (probably not from Vergerio's library since fol. 145v indicates a 
date of 5 September 1449); 12) Misc. humanistica (including several works of Cicero), ibid., 
cod. Lat. 20; 12) Plutarchus, Aristides et Cato Maior, translatio Latina Franciscus Barbarus, 
ibid., cod. Lat. 26. On the codices in the University Library of Budapest, see also Ladislaus 
Mezey, Codices Latini Medii Aevi Bibliothecae Universitatis Budapestinensis (Budapest: Aka- 
demia Kiado, 1961), 34-37, 39, 41, 43. Vergerio's will made no mention of his books nor of 
Vitez. According to an early biographer {Epist., 474-75), his books were numerous. For the 
books that Zabarella left to Vergerio, see Agostino Sottili, "La questione ciceroniana in una 
lettera di Francesco Zabarella a Francesco Petrarca (tav. IV)," Quademi per la storia 
dell'Universita di Padova 6 (1973): 37-38. 

160 CHAPTER 10 

tioned as an effective exordium, rendering the audience receptive to his 
ensuing invective against avarice and against the social structures which 
nurtured that vice. The stories and their settings took Vergerio on a 
journey backwards through the events and places of his life. The protag- 
onists included an ingenuous peasant not unlike those whom Vergerio 
would have known from his childhood in Istria, a patrician and cobbler 
from the bourgeois and artisan strata of Venetian society, Bohemian and 
Polish residents from Sigismund's realm, and the charlatan Toscanello, 
who epitomized an academic form of hypocrisy against which Vergerio 
had inveighed throughout his career. 

The plots of the anecdotes respect the straightforward narrative of 
the genre; Vergerio's comments on their meaning reveal the subtlety of 
good humor. ^"^ In one story, a Venetian patrician contrives to find out 
if a cobbler in his sestiere is as content as he appears to be. The patrician 
has observed that the cobbler earns just enough money to support his 
wife and himself in a tiny home; despite great wealth, the patrician finds 
himself driven to acquire ever greater sums of money. Out of curiosity, 
therefore, the patrician decides to see if happiness is really inversely pro- 
portional to wealth. He leaves a cache of gold where he knows that only 
the cobbler will find it. Alas, the patrician is doubly disappointed by the 
results. Initially, to the patrician's satisfaction, the cobbler resists the 
urge to take the gold, but his noble resolve weakens. After he snatches 
the treasure, he lives the rest of his life in mortal fear of losing it. The 
patrician ruins the cobbler's life and, in the process, loses his gold and 
his illusions about the virtuous poor.^^ 

In another story, Vergerio focused again upon the theme of avarice, 
exploring the ways in which a capitalist system of commercial exchange 
preyed on weak individuals who succumb to the vice. The plot exploit- 
ed the reputation of Bohemians for cleverness and Poles for naivete. In 
the anecdote, a Bohemian tricks a Pole into allowing him to take the 

'^ Epist., 384-95, 452-53. Poggio Bracciolini included the story of the charlatan doctor 
(#203) in the Facetiae he published in 1452; Vergerio and Poggio may have originally heard 
the account at a gathering of humanists at the Papal Court. The story of the peasant is 
much older and has been traced by some scholars to the Talmud. On the genre in the Ren- 
aissance, see Barbara C. Bowen, "Renaissance Collections of Facetiae, 1344-1528: A New 
Listing," Renaissance Quarterly 39 (1986): 1-3, 263. 

'^ Epist., 452-53: "Intervenit ille, aurum offendit; haeret primum stupidus, / ut qui nihil 
huiuscemodi tale speraret, sed nequivit tandem pravis opinionibus ingeneratum hominibus 
errorem continenter frenare. Itaque circumspicit si quis eum viderit; qui, cum neminem 
adesse intellexisset, aurum rapit, domum raptim proficiscitur, homines, bruta, parentes ipsos 
pertimescit, ac ne uxori quidem propalare id audet." 

Imperial Bureaucrat 161 

Pole's hat by using a single word whose meaning changes in their re- 
spective languages. Vergerio used the anecdote to denounce the practice 
of bankers who deceive their clients by concealing their usurious practic- 
es under another name. He found it reprehensible to prey upon the in- 
genuous through such ruses; the essence of loaning money at interest did 
not change whether one called himself a usurer {usurara) or an exchang- 
er {cambius). As an adolescent, Vergerio had decided that he could not 
reconcile the merchant's unbridled pursuit of profit with the liberal arts. 
Now he specifically censured commercial bankers, who had transformed 
"the most honorable arts into the most vile service, the love of wisdom 
into the love of silver, oratory into money-changing, and Greek letters 
themselves into letters of exchange." Their guilt was compounded by 
willful deception. ^^ 

In the 1430s, Vergerio incorporated two anecdotes into a letter to 
loannes de Dominis, the bishop of Segna (Zengg, Senj) in Croatia. ^^ 
The first dealt with Toscanello, who masquerades as a doctor because 
that profession offers the greatest reward to a swindler. All human be- 
ings wish to enjoy good health, but almost none have the training to 
judge a doctor's ability. Medical diagnoses, even those by the best physi- 
cians, had an inherent element of uncertainty. No doctor succeeded in 
100 percent of the cases he treated, and the most reliable often disagreed 
about proper therapies. Patients were well named: they entrusted them- 
selves to a physician's care in the hopes of a cure over time. If the cure 
failed, no one really knew if the doctor were to blame. And doctors al- 
most always reaped a handsome profit for their efforts. Only the up- 
standing character of the physician could guarantee against potential 
abuses. Toscanello invents a scheme to exploit those realities. He first 
combs medical textbooks and records individual therapies on small 
cards, and then he presents himself as a physician to unsuspecting peas- 
ants. To attract patients, he offers his services at lower rates than those 

'^ Ibid., 387: "Itaque sub appellatione cambii eo negotio tamquam licito palam et absque 
rubore utuntur, nomine tamen non re mutata. In hoc quoque parum iusti, campsores 
nomen, quod damnati faenoris est appellatio, in honesti operis nomen cambire studuerunt. 
Quod genus lucri ab imperitis fieri forsitan potest; ab iis vero qui, et Graece et Latine magna 
parte professi, morali philosophiae diutius insudarunt, qua non dico venia sed qua patientia 
ferri valeat non satis intelligo. Nam honestissimae quidem artes in vilissimum ministerium, 
philosophiam in philargyriam, oratoriam in nummulariam, ipsasque Graecas litteras, mutato 
studio, in litteras quas dicunt cambii, per malum cambium converterunt." 

" Smith, Epist., xxix, 388n. The letter dates from 1432-36. De Dominis became bishop 
of Nagy-Varad in 1440 and was killed by the Turks at the battle of Varna in November of 
1444, where King Ladislas III of Poland and the papal legate Giuliano Cesarini also died. 

162 CHAPTER 10 

that local doctors charge. When an individual seeks his advice, he first 
insists on payment. Then, as he reaches into his bag of cards, he urges 
the trusting sufferer "to ask God that something good come out."^^ He 
selects a remedy purely by chance and tells the patient to follow the 
stated regime. The cure generally has no effect, and on occasion it ac- 
tually makes things worse. Yet there are also rare instances where the 
remedy effects the desired cure. Whatever the outcome, Toscanello pros- 
pers as he has anticipated. 

Vergerio paired that account with another involving a dimwitted 
peasant who goes to great lengths to ingratiate himself with his lord. 
The peasant knows the lord's taste for young figs and uses manure on 
the fig trees to quicken the maturation process. When the peasant sam- 
ples the figs from those trees, however, he discovers to his dismay that 
he has only succeeded in ruining their natural flavor. Undaunted, he fills 
a basket by mixing the immature figs with others fit for consumption. 
Upon tasting the figs, the lord quickly realizes that many are not ripe. 
Annoyed at the peasant's attempts to manipulate a reliable process of na- 
ture, he devises a lighthearted punishment worthy of the foolish crime. 
While the lord eats the few figs that have ripened, he amuses himself by 
bouncing the unripe ones off the peasant's head. The dimwitted peasant 
can only offer a prayer of thanks that his master loves figs and not 
peaches, which, given their solid pit, would make a much greater im- 



All four stories illustrate that, late in life, Vergerio appreciated the 
restiveness of the human heart. Human beings are rarely satisfied with 
their material possessions, nor are they inclined to acknowledge the 
limits of their capacities. No matter how much or how little one had, 
one tended to want more. The cobbler and the peasant had proven just 
as avaricious as the Venetian patrician. Moreover, Vergerio lamented the 
ways in which the structures of society preyed on the weakness of indi- 
viduals who easily give in to avarice. Both the peasant in the countryside 
and the cobbler in Venice succumbed to that vice. The peasant foolishly 
sought to hasten natural processes, while the cobbler miserably hoarded 

" Epist., 392: " 'Pete,' aiebat, 'a Deo, ut bonum tibi eveniat.' " The practice of medicine 
in the later Middle Ages included complex recipes for drug therapy. See John M. Riddle, 
"Theory and Practice in Medieval Medicine," Viator 5 (1974): 170-83; and Nancy G. Siraisi, 
Taddeo Alderotti and His Pupils: Two Generations of Italian Medical Learning (Princeton: 
Princeton Univ. Press, 1981), 269-302. 

" Epist., 392: " 'Laus Deo, quod persica non fuere quae detuli!' " 

Imperial Bureaucrat 163 

his bonanza. For Vergerio, the most blatant case of preying upon hu- 
man weakness was usury. Those with Httle or no capital placed them- 
selves in a state of greater dependency by going into debt. Changing the 
name from usury to exchange only added hypocrisy to the bankers' sins 
of manipulation. 

Among the characters, Toscanello manipulated human gullibility in 
the most cynical fashion. When approached as a business, no activity 
guaranteed surer profits than treating the ill: doctors never lack for 
patients. Having chosen to exploit the art of healing, which supplied al- 
most risk-free ways of defrauding others, Toscanello duped the less so- 
phisticated members of his society. His breach of trust for the sake of 
quick enrichment perverted a noble profession, whose members swore 
a solemn oath to heal human suffering. Ever the moral educator, Verge- 
rio saw Toscanello as epitomizing the hypocrisy of many who pretend- 
ed to be learned. He had left matters to chance rather than skill and 
richly profitted by doing so. 

In old age, Vergerio continued to insist on the necessity of training 
human genius in those arts which had a moral purpose. Beneath their 
wit, the anecdotes are pessimistic about human nature. Humans even 
make language, a tool for communication, serve their nefarious ends. 
The sophistry of the Bohemian, who twists the meaning of words in or- 
der to steal from a naive Pole, symbolized for Vergerio the slick ways of 
bankers. They use their intelligence to appropriate the meager savings of 
unsuspecting clients, and all is done in legal fashion. Rather than chal- 
lenge their students to recognize the ways in which social structures 
preyed upon human weakness, educators often try to assure that their 
students find remunerative employment within those structures. Verge- 
rio was forced to admit that human beings had notable capacities to de- 
ceive others— and themselves. Yet all was not in vain. 

Vergerio claimed that Toscanello and the peasant were really unwit- 
ting geniuses, whose insight supplied an antidote for the restlessness of 
the human spirit. Before choosing a cure, Toscanello instructs his pa- 
tients to ask God for what they needed. Likewise, the peasant has the 
sound instinct to thank God for what he has received. There was too 
much surety and smugness in the world for Vergerio's liking. 

Whence come such great vicissitudes [in our lives]? They do not 
result from the state of affairs themselves, which basically remain 
the same or at least are not easily transformed even by the most 
profound alterations. We ourselves are the source of inconstancy, 

164 CHAPTER 10 

for we look upon realities in vain as darkness covers our eyes and 
we inquire into truth as though feeling about blindly. When deal- 
ing with uncertain matters, we cannot keep ourselves from exer- 
cising our powers of judgment for what we consider right, even 
when impelled by ambiguous or weak reasons; in those cases, as 
is only right, we are very often mistaken. Therefore, the sayings 
of each of those two characters warn us not to rely on ourselves; 
rather, let us ask that he who does not know how to err direct 
our path and let us pray for good things for ourselves from the 
one who is entirely good and goodness itself.^° 

Vergerio decried the destructive effects of self-pity; human ignorance 
{imbecillitas) identified suffering as something intrinsically evil. Be grate- 
ful that God did not allow greater suffering: though figs may hurt, they 
never cause the pain of peaches. 

Vergerio's recommendations eventually reached one of his lifelong 
friends, the Venetian Niccolo Leonardi. In letters exchanged over the 
course of forty years, Niccolo and Vergerio had shared the intimate ex- 
periences of their private lives.^^ Niccolo once wrote to Vergerio to in- 
form him of the birth of a son, and Vergerio immediately responded to 
express his joy, claiming that he felt like a second father to the boy. A 
few years later, after Niccolo had built a house on Murano, Vergerio 
warned him not to spend too much on the house and jeopardize the 
possibility of a liberal education for their son. When Vergerio learned of 

^° Ibid., 394: "Unde, quaeso, haec? Unde tanta varietas? Non ex rebus ipsis est, quae 
eaedem manent aut non facile tanta mutatione variantur, sed ex nobis, qui quasi per cribrum 
oculis caligantibus res intuemur, et veritatem veluti palpantibus manibus inquirimus, ac, de 
rebus incertis per rationes ambiguas parumque solidas impulsi, movemur ad recte iudican- 
dum; in quo iudicio, ut aequum est, frequentissime fallimur. Quamobrem utriusque verbis 
monemur non confidere de nobis, sed ab eo petamus dirigi, qui nescit errare, atque ab eo 
ipso, qui totus bonus est et ipsum bonum est, nobis bona precemur, illud insuper sentientes, 
sine quo superior ratio parum valet, ut nonnisi bona existimemus quaecumque dederit ille, 
qui mala dare non potest. Quod si hoc admittere nostra imbecillitas non sustinet, sed mala 
iudicat quaecumque molesta sunt, gratias saltem agamus divinae bonitati, quod peiora pro- 
hibuit et maiore nos molestia turbari non permisit." 

^' Ibid., 303-4, 307-8, 311-12; Marcello Zicari, "II piu antico codice di lettere di P. 
Paolo Vergerio il vecchio," Studia Oliveriana 2 (1954): 54-55; and Vittorio Zaccaria, 
"Niccolo Leonardi, i suoi corrispondenti e una lettera inedita di Pier Paolo Vergerio," Atti 
e memorie delta Accademia di scienze, lettere ed arti in Padova, n.s., 95 (1982-83): 96-1 10. On 
Niccolo, see also Margaret L. King, Venetian Humanism in an Age of Patrician Dominance 
(Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), 62-63, 387-89; and TizianaPesenti, Prq/e«one/>ro- 
motori di medicina nello Studio di Padova dal 1405 al 1509: Repertorio bio-bibliografico, Con- 
tributi alia storia dell'Universita di Padova 16 (Padua: Centro per la storia dell'Univcrsita, 
and Trieste: LINT, 1984), 125-27. 

Imperial Bureaucrat 165 

the death of Niccolo's mother, he quickly wrote to express his solidarity 
and offer Niccolo consolation for his loss. In a different vein, Vergerio 
later sent Niccolo a gift of small razors, joking about his magnanimous 
generosity and the appropriateness of Tartar blades for one like Niccolo 
with a round face and light beard. 

Given those long years of friendship, Vergerio must have felt an es- 
pecially keen anguish when he read a letter that Niccolo sent him in 
1437. After several years of silence, Niccolo wrote to say that he had 
seen a copy of Vergerio 's anecdotes about Toscanello and the peasant, 
and they had brought him a measure of solace at a most difficult junc- 
ture. Niccolo then listed the ways in which adverse fortune had assault- 
ed the fortress of his resolve. His son Eustachio had contracted a fatal 
illness shortly after arriving in Corfu to assume the prestigious position 
of archbishop. Niccolo's only other son, Giovanni, had already pro- 
nounced vows in a religious order, leaving Niccolo to cope with the 
family's expenses, especially his daughters' dowries. As if matters were 
not already difficult enough, Niccolo had been blind for several years 
and needed someone to lead him by the hand wherever he went.^ In 
old age, therefore, Niccolo found himself deprived of the possibility of 
reading, his most cherished form of relaxation. Niccolo concluded by 
committing himself to Vergerio's therapy: despite suffering, he would 
place his trust in God. Vergerio left no response to his friend's poignant 
account. Throughout his career, he had shown special appreciation for 
the power of the visible; he had to be moved upon hearing that his 
friend had lost his sight. Although Vergerio would find a measure of sat- 
isfaction in envisioning Niccolo's laughter as someone read the humor- 
ous anecdotes to him, he must also have gathered a chilling sense of the 
difficulty in attaining interior freedom, which he had upheld as an ideal 
throughout his life. 

After the death of Sigismund in 1437, Vergerio apparently retired 
from political life. Later biographers suggested that he had taken refuge 
in the household of the bishop of Nagy-Varad or in a monastery; his 
will, however, was written "in the stove-room of his own house" in 

" EpisL, 397: "Iiaque, cum petiissem Romam, hac virtutum suanim fama Corcirensem 
archiepiscopatum sibi facile nactus sum, quem eodem adiit tempore et monem obiit. Fuit 
ille quidem casus mihi acerbus, atrocior vero hie qui extemplo ilium secutus est. Nam ego 
postquam e Roma redii, oculis Dei digito captus octo iam annis nihil cemo nee eo sensu 
penitus utor, sed si quo progredior, duce mihi opus est, qui manibus et trahat et regat. lu 
senex calamitosus caecus sedeo, solatio etiam lectionis, cum solus sum, quae me plurimimi 
delectabatur, privattis." 

166 CHAPTER 10 

Buda.^^ When Vergerio's biographers tried to fill in the picture of his 
last years, they tended to cast him in the image of his hero Jerome. One 
author insisted that Vergerio spent those years composing and translat- 
ing the lives of the church fathers; Jerome had likewise written a series 
of biographies of early Christian monks. ^"^ A second biographer posited 
close pyschological ties between Vergerio and Jerome, which he traced 
to their common origins in the region of Istria and their common ded- 
ication to eloquence. No one should be surprised, therefore, that Verge- 
rio spent the last years of his life in Buda living as though he were a her- 
mit .^^ In the seventeenth century, an anonymous biographer, perhaps 
Bartolomeo Petronio, carried that identification to its logical conclusion. 
He claimed that, after the emperor's death, Vergerio entered a monas- 
tery in Buda belonging to the Congregation of the Apostolic Friars of 
Saint Jerome {Gesuati). Historians have treated the biographer's report 
with warranted skepticism: the Gesuati had no monastery in Buda at 
that time.^^ 

How did Vergerio approach death? Were he true to his ideals, he 
would confront death in the spirit of a Stoic Christian. Vergerio had 

^^ Smith, Epist., xxix-xxx, 473, 477. For the reference to Vergerio's house, see ibid., 468: 
"in stupha domus habitationis dicti testatoris. . . ." The relevant bishops of Nagy-Varad were 
loannes de Cursola, O.M., (1435, d. 1440) and loannes de Dominis (1440, d. 1444); see Csa- 
podi-Gardonyi, Die Bibliothek des Vitez, 21-22, who feels certain that Vergerio spent time 
with loannes Vitez and loannes de Dominis in Nagy-Varad. 

^* Anon., "Vitz," Epist., 475: "vitas etiam nonnullorum sanctorum patrum in Latinum 
versas, ediditque alia." The biography was written sometime between 1444 and 1447 and 
was based upon information supplied by Petruspaulus De Buionis, the notary for Vergerio's 
will. As payment for his services, De Buionis received from Vergerio's estate a purse {scar- 
sella), a warmer {caldaria), and a tray (scutella). More memorably, he brought a camel back 
from Hungary, which Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini had captured from the Turks and sent to 
Pope Eugene FV. 

^^ Anon., "Vita," Epist., 477-78. The biographer adduces two separate sources for his 
information. First, a "brother" of Vergerio told Guarino of those circumstances: "Cum es- 
sem iis diebus Veronae, offendi illic quendam fratrem Vergerii. Paulum incolumem, tametsi 
esset in ultima vitae senectute, et esse apud Budam tamquam in eremo dicebat." Smith iden- 
tifies the relative as Vergerio de' Vergerii, son of Simone and administrator of Vergerio's 
possessions in Capodistria. The second source was lanus Pannonius: "et pervenit iuxta 
Budam, [et] accepit, dum confabularetur cum quibusdam viris illius civitatis, ibi esse doctissi- 
mum virum Italicum in eremo commorantem, unde ilico adivit ipsum." The author himself 
therefore concludes: "Itaque optimus philosophus et religiosissimus fuit eorum qui vive- 
ba<n>t in eremo." The author also notes that Vergerio, like Jerome, had suffered persecu- 
tion at the hands of Roman clerics due to his invectives against their immoral behavior 
(ibid., 478). Beyond the fact that he was a student of Guarino, nothing more is known of 
the author's identity. 

^^ Bartolomeo Petronio?, "Compendio della vita di Pier Paolo Vergerio," Epist, 473: 
"Cum se iam annosum et senio confectum intelligeret, vitae contemplativae se dedicans 
lesuatorum saeptis se clausit. . . ." 

Imperial Bureaucrat 167 

once begun to compose a dialogue on death and immortality, which he 
modeled upon Pseudo Seneca's De remediis fortuitorum. In the fragment 
of the text that exists, Vergerio candidly admitted that the thought of 
death caused him fear, but that fear ultimately made no sense. Why fear 
what one cannot avoid? The fear of death only makes life miserable and 
in no way changes the fact that we will die. The best therapy, therefore, 
lay in reflecting soberly on death's inescapable reality.^ On 3 May 
1444, sensing the imminence of his own death, Vergerio composed his 
will. Buried within the legal wording of the document, Vergerio intimat- 
ed how final his separation from family and Italy had become. In dispos- 
ing of his possessions, Vergerio left one hundred gold florins to "a poor 
relative from his patrilineage, if such a person could still be found 
alive." Absence made his heart grow fonder for Italy; he named two 
Italians as executors, the Florentine Manetto Ammannatini (1384-1450) 
and the Roman cardinal Giuliano Cesarini (1389-1444). Ammannatini 
had emigrated to Hungary in 1409 and was then employed at the royal 
court. Cesarini had come to the empire as the papal legate for the cru- 
sade against the Turks and would be killed in the battle of Varna just a 
few months later.^* According to the best evidence, in early July of 
1444, Vergerio died at his home in Buda. If his wishes were heeded, he 
was buried in the Dominican church of Saint Nicholas. Today, only the 
Gothic bell tower of the church still stands within the enclosure of the 
fortress. Vergerio's grave has been lost together with much of the mate- 
rial evidence from his years in imperial service. 

^ Epist, 308-10, 445-46. Vergerio wrote three consolatory letters: to Giovanni da Bolo- 
gna for the death of Santo de' Pellegrini (ibid., 183); to Niccolo Leonardi for the death of 
his mother (ibid., 303-4); and to Guglielmo da Ravenna for the death of his son (ibid., 308- 
10). According to an autograph gloss, Vergerio was extremely ill and almost died in 1440; 
see Csapodi-Gardonyi, Die Bibliothek des Vitez, 26, who cites Budapest, University Library, 
cod. Lat. 23, fol. 108 (plate 83): "A. d. MCCCCXL fui infirmus ad mortem quod numquam 
talem autem infirmitatem fui passus." 

^ PPV, Testamentum, Epist., 463-71. An Orsola de' Vergerii, the daughter of Domenico, 
inherited a considerable sum from Vergerio's possessions. For the executors, see Csapodi- 
Gardonyi, Die Bibliothek des Vitez, 22-23, 28; and Alfred A. Stmad and Katherine Walsh, 
"Cesarini, Giuliano," £)5/ 24:194. 


Pierpaolo Vergerio the elder gave important new directions to the 
humanist movement and thus supplied leadership to the bold group 
of Italian humanists, who early in the fifteenth century constituted them- 
selves an avant-garde.^ The humanists of the third generation— Vergerio, 
Leonardo Bruni, Niccolo Niccoli, Poggio Bracciolini, Antonio Loschi— 
pressed adherents of the movement to focus upon five social concerns. 
First, they deflected humanists from any temptation toward a demagogic 
politics. Seeing man as political by nature, they advocated a politics that 

' For the characterization of Vergerio's generation as avant-garde, see E. H. Gombrich, 
"From the Revival of Letters to the Reform of the Arts: Niccolo Niccoli and Filippo Bru- 
nelleschi," in The Heritage ofApelles: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (Oxford: Phaidon, 
1976), 93-110. Leonardo Bruni's Dialogi, which he dedicated to Vergerio, have rightly been 
seen as that generation's manifesto for humanism. See, e.g., Hans Baron, The Crisis of the 
Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an Age of Classicism 
and Tyranny (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1955; rev. ed., 1966), 225-69, 512-14; Hans 
Baron, From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni: Studies in Humanistic and Political Literature (Chi- 
cago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1968), 102-37; Jerrold E. Seigel, " 'Civic Humanism' or Cice- 
ronian Rhetoric? The Culture of Petrarch and Bruni," Past and Present, no. 34 (July 1966): 
9-28; Eugenio Garin, "Ritratto di Leonardo Bruni Aretino," y4«i e memorie della Accademia 
Petrarca di lettere, arti e scienze, n.s., 40 (1970-72): 6-12; Neal W. Gilbert, "The Early Italian 
Humanists and Disputation," in Anthony Molho and John A. Tedeschi, eds.. Renaissance 
Studies in Honor of Hans Baron (Florence: Sansoni, and De Kalb, 111.: Northern Illinois 
Univ. Press, 1971), 203-26; David Marsh, The Quattrocento Dialogue: Classical Tradition and 
Humanist Innovation, Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature 35 (Cambridge, Mass.: 
Harvard Univ. Press, 1980), 24-37; Quentin Skinner, The Renaissance, vol. 1 of The Founda- 
tions of Modem Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978), 80; David 
Quint, "Humanism and Modernity: A Reconsideration of Bruni's Dialogues," Renaissance 
Quarterly 38 (1985): 431-42; and Lars Boje Mortensen, "Leonardo Bruni's Dialogus: A Cice- 
ronian Debate on the Literary Culture of Florence," Classica et Mediaevalia 37 (1986): 259- 

170 Conclusion 

was serviceable to the needs of bourgeois oligarchs.^ Within that govern- 
ing elite, however, individuals of talent must always be free to articulate 
their views and win positions of responsibility. Strict standards of Cice- 
ronian Latinity would assure the exclusive nature of the elite, whereas 
honest expression of ideas through Latin oratory would identify those 
worthy of advancement. 

Secondly, to prepare the governing elite for their role in political so- 
ciety, those humanists developed an educational program which under- 
lined the importance of their disciplines and distanced itself from the 
Aristotelian curriculum of Europe's universities. A humanist education 
would begin during adolescence, stress different disciplines, and prepare 
students to fulfill their role as citizens of the civic community. Central 
to the success of such an education were its emphases on forming char- 
acter and mastering rhetoric. The two were closely related: no politician 
could hope to engender consensus among the governed if he did not live 
the values that he advocated publicly. 

Thirdly, the generation of Bruni and Vergerio wanted humanists to 
appropriate fully the rhetorical culture of antiquity. As an art, rhetoric 
primarily taught one success in public speaking; its applications to liter- 
ary and visual expression were secondary. Fourthly, while those human- 
ists pressed for proficiency in rhetoric, they increasingly followed the 
lead of recent visual artists. Painters and sculptors had revolutionized ar- 
tistic expression by ignoring contemporary conventions and by imitat- 
ing ancient ones. In addition, they had proven how effective sight was 
in persuading human beings. The orator's primary goal, then, became 
that of portraying in words the very "face of virtue." In all of their ac- 
tivities, finally, humanists of the third generation had to confront the 
censure of clerics in Italy, who suggested that the movement's adherents 
had abandoned their faith in a blind rush to embrace the culture of 
ancient pagans. 

Vergerio emerged as a leader of the humanist movement because he 
offered creative responses to all five of the challenges that his generation 
faced. Though his political convictions matured and were always 
marked by a sense of pragmatism, they remained elitist. His family be- 
lieved that they had survived the turbulent years of the War of Chioggia 
because a member of the heavenly elite had proven a generous patron 

^ Lauro Marlines, Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy (New York: 
Knopf, 1979), 191-201. 

Conclusion 171 

for them. To attain worthy political goals of reintegration and order, 
one needed a powerful patron to work his influence downward into the 
wider body politic. Vergerio received his political education in the last 
decade of the fourteenth century during the wars triggered by the ag- 
gressive policies of Giangaleazzo Visconti. Those wars further convinced 
him of the dangerous myopia of demagogic politics. The small de- 
spotisms of northern Italy, blinded by a fury to expand their territorial 
control, often invited the participation of greater powers in their petty 
struggles. By looking only to local concerns and by rallying popular sup- 
port through wars of conquest, the despots had planted the seeds of 
their own destruction. 

Like his patron Jerome, Vergerio had developed an intuitive sense of 
a res publica litterarum. In that republic of farsighted citizens, there 
would be an emphasis on classical Latin and on Ciceronian oratory. Ver- 
gerio's letter to Petrarch in the name of Cicero revealed his close psy- 
chological association with the Roman champion of free speech within 
the governing elite. It also marked his clearest public advocacy of prag- 
matism in public life: Cicero had adapted his judgments on the warlords 
of his day in keeping with the evolution of their politics. However, he 
had refused to sit silently by in comfortable retirement when Mark An- 
thony sought to establish a tyranny that would suppress the freedom of 
expression which constituted a fundamental right for Rome's elite. 
Cicero had defended a republican system of government that restricted 
power to an elite (the Senate) within a dominant class (the patriciate). 
Vergerio praised the wisdom of Venice's constitutional order precisely 
for filtering the control of the Great Council into a smaller Senate. The 
Venetian model had a further advantage in that membership in the 
Great Council was defined by law, not by birth. The Great Council 
could and did expand, and the Venetian Senate, a smaller body, could al- 
ways consult more widely, as the Roman Senate had done through the 
institution of the contio? Vergerio recommended humanist oratory to 
the rulers of his day because that oratory protected the state from two 
poHtical extremes. First, it eliminated the temptation toward demagogic 
populism because it was understood only by an elite trained in classical 
Latin expression. Moreover, in its free and responsible exercise, it prevented 
any member of the elite from seizing dictatorial control of government. 

' Amaldo Momigliano, "La liberta di parola nel mondo antico," Rivista storica italiana 
83 (1971): 521. 

172 Conclusion 

Vergerio's evaluation of the Carrara regime in Padua likewise be- 
trayed the fundamentally elitist character of his political ideas. A despo- 
tism like that of the Carrara maintained its political legitimacy as long 
as the members of the regime fulfilled their governing obligations. The 
governors had to act as beneficent patrons toward the commoners of the 
Paduan state, extending their largesse to foster the well-being and har- 
mony of the state. Moreover, the governing elite had an obligation to re- 
press factionalism within the dominant class. In all political activities, 
the despot must maintain a severe regard for legality: being a member of 
the elite did not give one the license to choose with impunity an arbitra- 
ry course of action. At any given moment, the regime could measure its 
success against the harmony of the elite and the contentment of the 
broader populace. In matters of foreign policy, the Carrara had best 
served Padua when they had seen their state as a participant in contro- 
versies that involved greater and lesser powers. Surrendering a measure 
of control to a greater regional power might in the end be wiser than 
engaging in a hopeless struggle against that regional power. In his politi- 
cal writings, Vergerio declared the character of the ruler more important 
than the structure of government. He was willing to serve in a monar- 
chy or a republic, and not only because he hoped that some government 
might pay his living expenses. His emphasis on character, moreover, 
made his potential role as an educator of the elite that much more ap- 
pealing. A good prince often produced mediocre offspring who needed 
a sound education if they were to have any hope of overcoming their 
defects of character. For Vergerio, a bourgeois sense of internal worth 
predominated over any aristocracy of birth. One should earn a govern- 
ing role by proving commitment to virtue in deed. 

There is no question that Vergerio devised an original approach to a 
humanist education. His creativity had a solid grounding in his own per- 
sonal experience. From his earliest days as a university tutor in dialectic, 
Vergerio had sensed a need to reorient education. While valuing logic as 
a tool for rational argumentation, Vergerio did not accept logic as a basis 
for all future studies. Scholastic logic directed students toward a purely 
intellectual training and lacked the moral emphasis that Vergerio 
deemed essential.'* Vergerio further decried a lack of flexibility in uni- 
versity programs. He began to elaborate an alternative in the PauluSy 

■* Bruce A. Kimball, Orators and Philosophers: A History of the Idea of Liberal Education 
(New York and London: Teachers College Press, 1986), 67. 

Conclusion 173 

where he traced a path between two extremes. Educators must not offer 
rigid norms without attention to individual character and experience, 
but they must not impart a sense of freedom as the license to do whatev- 
er one felt like doing. Genuine freedom was responsible and best re- 
vealed itself in the art of "good and holy living,"^ an art which re- 
quired training and then practice. Vergerio also capitalized on his 
knowledge of classical sources. After he had studied Greek with Manuel 
Chrysoloras, he became aware that Pseudo Plutarch had written a 
treatise on the education of children. Vergerio crafted his own program 
for adolescents. He thereby tied the educational program to the process 
of maturation. He felt that it was especially important to stress the 
formation of character in adolescence, when one discovered for the first 
time the power of libido. 

Already in 1396, Vergerio had reached firm conclusions about the 
best way to form character in the adolescent sons of the political elite. 
In letters to a friend, Ludovico Buzzacarini, he underlined the impor- 
tance of a trio of subjects useful for public life— moral philosophy, his- 
tory, and rhetoric. All three fell squarely within the purview of human- 
ists. Moral philosophy prescribed norms for proper behavior, history 
illustrated the success or failure of human beings in adhering to those 
norms, and rhetoric supplied the skill to persuade others of their impor- 
tance. Once conceptualized, Vergerio gave that trio a central role in his 
treatise on humanist education, De ingenuis moribus. Historians rightly 
see that subcurriculum for political life as one of the treatise's most in- 
genious elements. Within that trio, moreover, Vergerio drew upon his 
previous poHtical experience and assigned a place of preeminence to 
rhetoric. In his earliest efforts to win Carrara patronage, Vergerio had 
attempted to use oratory as his passport to public service. When one 
compares the sermons and speeches that Vergerio composed at Padua in 
the last decade of the fourteenth century with those of his contemporar- 
ies, it is clear that he had adopted an innovative approach to public 
speaking. His panegyrics for Jerome provoked negative reactions among 
traditionalists; Vergerio admitted to abandoning the thematic form and 
concomitant logical emphases of preaching customary in his day. His 
funeral oration for Francesco da Carrara il Vecchio in 1393 easily distin- 
guishes itself from the sermons of Francesco Zabarella and Giovanni Ludo- 
vico Lambertazzi because Vergerio again disregarded the thematic form of 

Cicero Off. 1.6.19. 

174 Conclusion 

preaching. He chose to follow ancient norms tor panegyric and to exploit 
the power of the visible in arousing pathos among his listeners. 

Through public speeches, Vergerio sought to make the political sig- 
nificance of impressive spectacles clear to those who understood his clas- 
sicizing medium. All could see the outpouring of grief at the burial of 
Francesco da Carrara. When Vergerio described the crowd of mourners 
in attendance, he arranged them according to a proper class structure. 
By following classical principles and classical models to craft his praise, 
Vergerio thereby introduced a potentially radical dimension into a fun- 
damentally conservative enterprise.^ As his preferred weapon, he wield- 
ed the principle of ethos in a Roman sense. Societal leaders should be 
measured against the values that they themselves advocate. The principle 
acquired a sharp edge in proportion to the rigidity of a society's hierar- 
chy. The more entrenched the elite, the more menacing the principle 
that they are accountable for living the values they sanction. Status be- 
comes meaningless; only deeds count. Rather than attack the structures 
of society, humanists praised or censured the behavior of the governing 

Vergerio 's experience in composing orations for important civic and 
religious rituals in Padua led him to distinguish his own style of human- 
ism from that of the movement's founder, Francesco Petrarca. Whereas 
Petrarch preferred the poet's solitude of the Vaucluse, Vergerio desired 
to be an orator active in the public square of the city-state. He opted for 
a more integral commitment to ancient rhetorical culture. When Carlo 
Malatesta destroyed a statue of Virgil in 1397, Vergerio used the occa- 
sion to prosecute Carlo before the bar of learned opinion. He shaped 
the invective as an appeal to recover the political dimension of the rhe- 
torical culture of antiquity: Carlo's attack on Virgil represented an at- 
tack on Cicero as well. Humanists could legitimately pursue the compo- 
sition of poetry, but the movement would never achieve a full mirroring 
of classical standards unless its orators spoke out in public. In his theo- 
retical writings, Vergerio argued for a restoration of the traditional 
opportunities for public speaking, in his day restricted only to the 
ceremonial occasions of the epideictic genre. He also offered Cicero as 
the single model for those who aspired to success in public speaking, and 
he stressed decorum in style and substance, shunning the excesses of 

* Maurizio Bettini, Antropologia e cultura romana: Parentela, tempo, immagini dell'anima 
(Rome: La Nuova Italia Scientifica, 1986), 129-31. 

Conclusion 175 

Asianism in favor of the sobriety of Atticism/ In effect, Vergerio 
redefined the social role of a humanist intellectual: he was not simply to 
be a scholar or poet but rather an important actor in the political life of 
Italy's republics and despotisms. 

Once employed at the Papal Court in 1405, Vergerio began to prac- 
tice what for years he had preached. In 1406, he spoke before Pope In- 
nocent VII and the nobles of the Roman commune as he attempted to 
reconcile them after the violence of the previous year. A few weeks 
later, Vergerio prodded Innocent to address critical problems affecting 
the Roman Church. When Vergerio delivered a panegyric of Jerome to 
the Papal Court, he emphasized Jerome's mastery of pagan learning and 
his ability to tame a lion, the wildest of beasts. The pope would do well 
to repudiate the relentless attacks that censorious clerics like Giovanni 
Dominici launched against humanism. Likewise, the pope should emu- 
late Jerome by approaching his rival claimant in Avignon with the same 
sort of kindness and patience that yielded such dramatic results with the 
lion. After Innocent died without resolving the Schism, Vergerio un- 
leashed the full force of his invective to castigate the Roman cardinals 
for their repeated failings and to convince them to delay in electing a 
successor to Innocent. Vergerio's ardor for church reform had been 
stoked through his personal conversations with Bernardino da Siena. He 
denounced the hypocrisy of the Roman clergy: the pope never acted on 
his promises to meet his Avignonese rival and the cardinals never ad- 
hered to their oath to resign if elected pope. 

To highlight those transgressions, Vergerio painted a portrait of 
primitive Christianity, in which the mores of early churchmen appear 
in sharp contrast to those of clerics in Vergerio's day. What little the 
early Christians possessed, which included no silver or gold, was held in 
common for the benefit of all. In keeping with his emphasis on charac- 
ter, Vergerio traced the roots of the Schism to personal vices prevalent 
among the Church's leaders. Ambitious and avaricious, the higher clergy 
had enriched themselves and ignored the needs of the people of God. 
Despite the urgency of his plea, Vergerio failed to convince the cardinals 
to delay their election. Two years later, in 1408, he tried to use his 
panegyric of Jerome to effect a change of heart in the new pontiff. 

' Marcello Aurigemma, Studi sulla cultura letteraria fra Tre e Quattrocento (Filippo Vtl- 
lani, Vergerio, Bruni) (Rome: Bulzoni, 1976), 68-73; and Paul Oskar Kristeller, Renaissance 
Thought and Its Sources, Michael Mooney, ed. (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1979), 220. 

176 Conclusion 

Gregory XII. Once again he painted a portrait of Jerome as a champion 
of humanist learning and a model of Christian detachment. Yet Gregory 
clung to his authority, and, a year later, Vergerio abandoned the Papal 
Court in disgust. One last time, in 1421, he would speak publicly in an 
effort to foster reconciliation, on that occasion between Catholics and 
Hussites in the reign of Sigismund. He sought to make the parties see 
how much they had in common; even their division over receiving com- 
munion from the chalice might be resolved through compromise and 
understanding, without legislating uniformity of practice. Less tolerant 
voices, however, prevailed. 

In virtually all of those speeches, Vergerio characteristically tried to 
capitalize on the power of the visible. His lifetime of humanist activity 
had taught him that the visual evoked a more powerful emotional re- 
sponse than the purely cerebral.^ Each time he returned to his home- 
town of Capodistria, depending on whether he approached by sea or 
land, he saw a distinct difference in character. From the sea, one ob- 
served the admirable qualities of the town, its healthy environment and 
potential for civic harmony. By land, however, one obtained a less at- 
tractive perspective, crossing a fetid swamp whose infected air symbol- 
ized the factionalism of Capodistria at its violent worst. When Vergerio 
wrote his first classicizing orations in Padua, he exploited the power of 
the visible. To commemorate the restoration of Francesco Novello to 
power, Vergerio contrasted the devastation wrought on Padua by its 
Visconti conquerors to the flourishing character of the city-state under 
Carrara rule. In reviewing the assembled mourners at the funeral of 
Francesco il Vecchio, Vergerio rendered the structure of the city-state 
visible, with its most powerful elements gathered directly behind the 
bier of Carrara leadership. The elite signaled their intent to follow the 
worthy policies of Francesco il Vecchio, which Vergerio then explained, 
lest anyone, especially Francesco Novello, forget them. 

Vergerio's persistent interest in urban culture and government re- 
ceived literary expression in a series of projected treatises on specific 
cities: Capodistria, Rome, Venice, and Florence. Even the notes for 
those unfinished works establish that Vergerio intended to start from 
the visual evidence of site and topography and then proceed to the more 

* John W. O'Malley, Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and Re- 
form in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450-1321, Duke Monographs in Medieval 
and Renaissance Studies 3 purham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1979), 62-67, esp. 63. 

Conclusion 177 

subtle structures of government and constitutional order. From his 
childhood, he distinctly remembered the pleasing setting and harmoni- 
ous civic life of Cividale del Friuli. He professed abiding convictions 
that, were a city's site well chosen and its edifices well constructed, then 
its government would function smoothly. The arts of building and gov- 
erning were related, and the choices made had strategic, economic, and 
ethical consequences. In responding to the destruction of Virgil's statue 
in 1397, Vergerio displayed stronger repugnance than did the other hu- 
manists who responded to the crime. Vergerio alone emphasized the in- 
spirational power of a visible monument and ridiculed the purported 
piety of fanatics who were then destroying precious items in Italy's artis- 
tic patrimony. Their actions manifested a bigotry hardly in keeping with 
the values of a church whose highest ideals were professedly catholic. 
Just a year later, in 1398, Vergerio felt a deep sense of shame when he 
saw the condition of the city of Rome. The city's decrepit physical con- 
dition, constantly exacerbated by the reckless pillaging of ancient monu- 
ments, mirrored a deeper moral corruption. When Vergerio later served 
the popes in Rome, he realized that he must assign ultimate blame for 
the corruption to the popes; they had placed their own prestige before 
the needs of the community and become blind to the degradation of 
their see. 

Throughout his life, Vergerio found inspiration for his provocative 
convictions in the work of visual artists. He exalted Giotto as genuinely 
avant-garde and as the appropriate standard for excellence among paint- 
ers in his own day. Likewise, Vergerio sought to become an avant-garde 
orator by adhering to the standard of excellence set by Cicero. The vis- 
ual arts helped Vergerio to clarify his educational goals in his seminal 
treatise on humanist education. Admiring sculptors who left the rough- 
ing out of a first design to the stonecutters, Vergerio preferred that 
grammarians fulfill the essential but less stimulating task of assuring that 
students could read and write the Latin language correctly. Then the 
humanists would polish that rough material into works of art — students 
skilled in the humanities. As an ideal, Vergerio proposed that educators 
help students to see the very face of virtue itself. He also gave practical 
recommendations about what they should not see. And, late in life, Ver- 
gerio once again realized how precious the gift of sight was when Nic- 
colo Leonardi, an intimate friend, went blind. 

In all of his contributions to humanism, Vergerio never wavered in 
one fundamental conviction: there was no contradiction for him be- 
tween his Catholic faith and his humanist endeavors. From his child- 

178 Conclusion 

hood, Vergerio had experienced a world-affirming Christian piety 
centered upon charitable deeds to those in need. That piety received pe- 
culiar expression when his family observed the feast day of Saint 
Jerome, For Vergerio, Jerome became both a friendly patron and a wor- 
thy exemplar of his highest ideals. Through panegyrics of Jerome, Ver- 
gerio attempted to diffuse the power of his beneficent patron. He also 
attempted to conform himself to Jerome's virtues of humility and de- 
tachment as he traveled the Italian world in his chosen vocation as a 
scholar of Latin letters. Vergerio's was a piety imbued with tolerance; he 
attempted to walk a fine line between commitment to the distinctive 
qualities of Christianity and respect for honest inquirers who lived 
beyond the official bounds of Christianity.' Several experiences nour- 
ished the tolerant character of that piety. His father had proven an 
understanding mentor, especially when Vergerio decided not to marry. 
Such flexibility on the part of Vergerio's father in turn enlivened his 
own affinity for the revolutionary spirit of the comedy of Terence. 
Years later, when Vergerio wrote a treatise on liberal education, he 
made tolerance a hallmark of that work, stressing a need to adapt any 
program of learning to the individual's talents, inclinations, and needs. 
It is no surprise, then, that Vergerio loathed expressions of Christian 
piety that undermined a spirit of charitable tolerance. Vergerio did not 
fear the potentially deleterious effects of the pagan tradition upon 
Christianity; rather, he feared the obviously destructive effects of zealot- 
ry, which undermined the authentic spirit of Christianity. The pious 
zeal of Carlo Malatesta led him to tear down a statue of Virgil. Other fa- 
natical Christians were defacing frescoes which depicted Romans and 
Jews engaged in the crucifixion of Jesus. Worst of all, and symbolic of 
those misguided instincts, the city of Rome was subjected to incessant 
pillaging of the classical heritage by those acting in the name of Chris- 
tian piety. To those fanatical bigots, Vergerio offered the contrary exam- 
ple of Saint Jerome. Using his preferred medium of classicizing oratory 
to celebrate Jerome in public panegyrics, Vergerio sketched a portrait of 
Jerome as the humanist scholar and Christian confessor. The Christian 
and non-Christian heritages converged in Jerome, a saintly doctor and 
a good man skilled in public speaking. Jerome proved himself to be a 
man of genuine integrity because he exemplified the high ideals that he 

O'Malley, Praise and Blame, 157-60. 

Conclusion 179 

Vergerio's panegyrics of Jerome were consciously provocative in 
their medium and their message. In substance, he argued that Jerome 
achieved so much for the Christian community precisely because he was 
trained as a humanist scholar. His training gave him the philological and 
the rhetorical tools he needed to translate the Scriptures accurately and 
eloquently. When Vergerio analyzed Jerome's famous dream, he did not 
see it as a blanket condemnation of humanist studies but as a warning to 
use those studies for the various needs of the believing community. In 
fact, Jerome's cultural formation reflected Ciceronian emphases: he insis- 
tently sought a knowledge that was relevant to important public con- 
cerns and he insistently manifested an ethos that was persuasive to a 
broad range of admirers. His most compelling deeds of virtue reflected 
the profound detachment of an informed conscience. Jerome left Rome 
when his election as pope seemed assured. Jerome went to study under 
Gregory of Nazianzus when he enjoyed a reputation as one of the most 
learned scholars of the day. And Jerome overcame the temptation to re- 
turn to the profligate ways of his adolescence because he had tamed the 
beast of his libido. 

Those virtuous deeds had continuing relevance for the pressing con- 
cerns of Christians in Vergerio's time. Through the years, as Vergerio 
preached on Jerome, he gave his sermons an ever more prophetic edge. 
He advocated a greater rigor in the monastic life, endorsing goals similar 
to the Observant movement of the era. He urged preachers to pay 
greater attention to the quality of their own lives, echoing widespread 
dissatisfaction with the clergy's immorality. He pressed the Church's 
governing elite to reject clericalism, offering the primitive Christian 
community as a model for reform. Nor did Vergerio hesitate to depict 
the ways in which Jerome defied conventional wisdom. He publicly 
praised Jerome for his dedication to classical culture at a moment when 
Carlo Malatesta destroyed a statue of the poet Virgil. He denounced the 
tendency to measure human greatness in terms of success in warfare in 
an era when Giangaleazzo Visconti and his opponents embroiled Italy 
in constant warfare. And he applauded Jerome's willingness to forego 
election to the bishopric of Rome at a time when two claimants had bat- 
tled for years to be recognized as the supreme pontiff. 

To communicate that portrait, Vergerio chose an appropriately clas- 
sicizing medium. He did not use the conventional form of preaching, 
which was based on the division and analysis of a single verse from 
Scripture. Rather, he chose to preach according to the norms of panegy- 
ric that ancient theorists had cataloged in their handbooks on rhetoric. 

180 Conclusion 

Indisputably, Vergerio was one of the most creative voices of the new 
generation of humanists. At a moment when Coluccio Salutati, revered 
elder statesman of the humanist movement, retreated from a full defense 
of humanism out of austerely Christian convictions, Vergerio used a 
Christian hero of his childhood as a model for the committed humanist 
intellectual.^^ One could, therefore, be humanist and Christian; in fact, 
in Vergerio's estimation, Jerome's pursuit of the humanities had made 
him that much more catholic. 

'° For Salutati's retreat, see Ronald G. Witt, Hercules at the Crossroads: The Life, Works, 
and Thought of Coluccio Salutati, Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 
purham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1983), 392-413. 


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Brunus, Leonardiis. Dialogi ad Petrum Histrum (inc: Vetus est cuiusdam 
sapientis sententia). Eugenio Garin, ed. Prosatori latini del Quattro- 
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do aureo et paene divino libello). Vatican City, BAV, cod. Chigi. 

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Index of Manuscripts 

Budapest, University Library (Eotvos 
Lorand Tudomany Egyetem Konyv- 
tara): cod. Lat. 15, 159n 

— cod. Lat. 16, 159n 

— cod. Lat. 17, 159n 

— cod. Lat. 20, 159n 

— cod. Lat. 23, 159n, 167n 

— cod. Lat. 26, 159n 

Florence, Bibl. Laurenziana: cod. 

Acquisti e Doni 441, 52n 
Naples, Bibl. Nazionale: — cod. 

Vm.C.8, 90n 
Oxford, Bodleian: cod. Aua. F.L14, 

35n, 159n 

— cod. Canon, misc. 166, 121 
Padua, Bibl. del Seminario: cod. 196, 

88n, 185 
Paris, Bibl. Nationale: cod. Lat. 6390, 

— cod. Lat. 17888, 184 

— cod. Nouv. acq. lat. 1302, 181 
Siena, Bibl. Comunale degli Intronati: 

— cod. G.X.33, 113-14n, 184 
Trent, Museo and Bibl. Nazionale: 

— cod. W.43, 35 n. 11, 159n 
Vatican City, Bibl. Apostolica Vaticana: 

— cod. Chigi. J.Vn.266, 184, 185 

— cod. Ottob. lat. 480, 7n, 197 
Venice, Bibl. Nazionale Marciana: 

- cod. Marc. lat. XI.56 (3827), 39n, 183 

- cod. Marc. lat. Xn.26 (3906), 35n 

- cod. Marc. lat. Xin.41 (4729), 181 

- cod. Marc. lat. XIV.54 (4328), 15n, 
159n, 181 

- cod. Marc. lat. XIV.254 (4535), 183 
Vienna, Ost. Nationalbibliothek: 

- cod. Lat. 100, 159n 

- cod. Lat. 3099, 159n 

- cod. Lat. 4229, 159n 

- cod. Lat. 4792, 159n 

Volterra, Bibl. Comunale Guarnacciana: 

- cod. 9637, 184 

General Index 

Active and contemplative lives, 53-59, 
74-75, 79-80, 100, 127-28, 131, 133, 

Adolescence {adolescentia), 18-29 pas- 
sim, 39, 53-54, 59, 89-103 passim, 
105, 112, 113-14, 119, 128, 129, 149, 
161, 170; moral education for, 90, 93, 
101-2, 170, 173, 179; signs of liberty 
in, 91-92; characteristic habits of, 94 

Alfonso I (of Naples), 157 

Alidosi, Ludovico degli, 72, 77 

Alessio, Nicoletto d', 3 In, 34 

Alexander and Nazarius, Saints, 6. See 
also Capodistria 



Alexander of Macedon (the Great), 157 
Altichini family, 112 
Ammannatini, Manetto, 167 
Anon. Letter on Virgil's statue, 72, 78, 

Anthony, Mark (M. Antonius), 53-54, 

56-58, 171 
Antonius Petri Donadei de Rocca S. 

Stephani de Aquila, 90n 
Aquileia, 11; patriarchate of, 4, 36. See 

also Caetani, Antonio; Sobieslav, Jan 
Aristotle, 54, 142, 170; Rhetoric, 94; De 

physico, 96; De caelo et mundo, 96; 

defines a fortiori logic, 130-31 
Arithmetic, 96, 99 
Arms: discipline of, 55, 89, 90 
Arrian (Flavius Arrianus), 157-58 
Arsendi, Raniero, 112 
"Art of Preaching" {ars praedicandi), 

48-49, 123, 128, 132, 173-74, 179-80 
Astronomy, 96, 99 
Athens, 106 

Augustine, Saint, 131; City of God, 79 
Augustus (C. luhus Caesar Octavianus), 

9, 53-54, 56, 58, 66, 74, 117, 119 
Avignon, 60, 82, 129, 139, 142, 146, 175 
Azoni. See DegU Azoni 

Banchini, Giovanni di Domenico. See 

Dominici, Giovaimi, O.P. 
Banking, 161, 163 
Barbaro, Francesco (Franciscus Barba- 

rus): De re uxoria, 150 
Baron, Hans, ix, 57, 58 
Barzizza, Gasparino (Gasparinus Bar- 

zizza), 149-50 
Basel: Council of, 156 
Baxandall, Michael, 80 
Beccadelli, PoUione, 114 
Benedict Xm (Antipope), 139, 146-47, 

Bergamo, 32 
Bernardino da Siena, O.F.M., Saint, 

143-45, 175 
Bethlehem, 7-8 
Bianchi, movement of, 15 
Bible, 48, 79, 132, 142, 156, 179-80; 

Apocalypse of Saint John, 78 

Boarding school, 14, 100-1 
Boccaccio, Giovanni, 78 
Bohemia, 154-56, 160-61, 163 
Bologna, 11, 17, 20, 22, 31, 32, 36, 72, 

79-80, 87, 107; University of, 11, 17- 

29 passim, 60, 86, 90, 124, 159 
Boniface DC (Pope), 82, 108, 137-38, 

143, 152 
Boucicault (Marechal), 119 
Bracciolini, Poggio, 81-82, 169-70 
Brescia, 1, 32, 108 
Britain. See England 
Brown, Peter, 7, 135; Cult of the Saints, 

Bruni, Leonardo (Aretino), 72, 86, 139, 

141, 147, 169-70; Dialogi, 169n 
Buda (Ofen), 152-53, 165-67; church of 

Saint Nicholas, 167 
Buonaccorsi, FiHppo (Callimaco), 158n 
Buzzacarini family, 87n; Ludovico, 62, 

80, 97, 173; Fina, 110 

Caesar, Juhus (C. lulius Caesar), 53-56, 

58, 113 
Caetani, Antonio, 17, 64; appointed 

patriarch of Aquileia, 62 
Calcidius, 15 

Calvis, Antonio de (Cardinal), 147 
Capodistria (Koper), 2-3, 5-11, 14, 31, 

33, 39, 62, 88, 106, 116, 122, 148, 

176; Venetian dominance of, 5-6; 

Genoese sack of, 6; diocese of, 7; 

etymology of, 9-10 
Carrara family, 20, 31-34, 38, 40-49, 

58, 60, 70, 88-89, 103, 107-17, 119- 

20, 132, 172, 173, 176 

— Francesco Novello da, 31-33, 38-39, 
41, 42, 43-46, 47, 49, 52-53, 58, 63, 
64, 71, 82, 89, 107-9, 111, 116, 137, 
154, 176 

— Francesco il Vecchio da, 34, 41-43, 
46-49, 52, 110, 116, 173-74, 176 

— Gigliola da, 71 

— Francesco HI da, 71, 107-8 

— Ubertino di Francesco Novello da, 
89-90, 92-94, 103, 119 

— Giacomo di Francesco Novello da, 



— Giacomino da, 110, 113 

— Giacomo I (Grande) da, 111, 112-13, 

— Ubertino I da, 112, 113-15, 119 

— Giacomo 11 da, 113, 116 

— Marsilietto Papafava da, 113 

— MarsUio (Grande) da, 113, 114, 115- 

— Niccolo da, 113, 114 
Casalecchio: battle of, 107 
Catiline (L. Sergius CatUina), 54, 56 
Cattaneo, Ludovico, 154 
Cermisone, Bartolomeo, 47 
Cesarini, Giuliano (Cardinal), 167 
Charles VI (of France), 33, 71, 82 
Chrysoloras, Manuel, 86-87, 109, 146- 

47n, 150, 173 

Cicero, Marcus Tullius, 18, 21-22, 24, 
29, 35, 36, 37, 49, 52-59, 66, 70, 74- 
75, 76, 80-81, 91, 97, 101, 106, 109, 
118, 126-27, 128, 131, 133-34, 142, 
149-50, 158, 170-71, 174-75, 177, 
179; De inventione, 37; De senectute, 

Cividale del Friuli, 3-4, 6, 11, 62, 130, 
177; CouncU of, 147-48 

Claudius (Emperor), 93 

Constance: Council of, 149-52, 154-56 

Conversini, Giovanni (da Ravenna), 10, 
34, 37-39, 64, 84, 92, 100, 137. See 
also Malpaghini, Giovanni (da Raven- 

Corfu, 165 

Correr, Angelo (Cardinal). See Gregory 
Xn (Pope) 

Corvinus, Matthias (King), 158-59 

Croatia, 161 

Csapodi-Gardonyi, Klara, 158n, 159n 

Curio, Giacomo, 157 

Dahnatia, 122, 154 

Da Lozzo family, 113n 

Da Varano family, 41 

De Buionis, Petruspaulus, 166n 

Declamation, 37-38, 55 

Degli Azoni, Ysabeta: mother of PPV, 

1, 2n, 4, 6, 11, 62-63, 87 
De la Mare, Albinia, 81-82 

Delia Scala family, 20, 32, 108, 112-16; 
Cangrande, 112, 114, 115; Alberto, 
115-16; Mastino, 115-16; Brunoro, 

Del Tacco, Rantulfo, 14 

Dente family, 114; Guglielmo, 114 

Dialectic. See Logic 

Dominici, Giovanni, O.P., 141, 175 

Domitian (Emperor), 77, 102, 117 

Drawing, 99 

Eloquence, 22, 29, 54, 60, 97-98, 126- 
27, 150, 166 

England, 66, 86 

Ephesus: temple of Diana at, 77 

Eric of Pomerania (King of Denmark), 

Este family, 41; Niccolo HI d', 71; 
Obizzo d', 116 

Esztergom (Gran), 159 

Ethics, 8, 9-10, 18-19, 21-22, 25, 27-29, 
32, 36, 59-60, 62, 75, 77-80, 83, 85- 
86, 89-91, 93, 96-98, 99, 101-3, 109- 
19 passim, 123, 137-38, 145, 149, 151, 
159, 161-64, 172, 173, 175-77 

Ethos, ix, 8, 16, 19, 22, 29, 37, 53-57, 
70, 74-75, 80, 85-86, 98, 102, 127, 
128-29, 133-34, 142, 144, 146, 149, 
174, 178-79 

Facio, Bartolomeo, 157-58 

Factionalism, 10, 40, 56-57, 62, 67, 70, 
111-15, 118, 172, 176 

Federigo da Venezia, O.P., 43 

Ferrara, 71, 148. See also Este family 

Filargo, Pietro (Cardinal), 143 

Fiorello da Lucca, 114 

Firmness (constantia), 67 

Florence, 11, 12, 13, 14, 31, 32, 36, 51- 
52, 58, 64, 71, 72, 81, 86-87, 107-8, 
115-16, 139, 146-47, 176; University 
of, 12; convent of Santo Spirito, 14, 

France, 33, 71, 82, 86 

Francesco da Fiano, 140-41 

Franciscans, 143; Spiritual, 124-25 

Frangipani family, 41 



Freedom. See Liberty 

Garin, Eugenio, ix, 15 

Gaza, Theodore, 157 

Genoa, 3-4, 6 

Geometry, 96, 99 

Germany, 33, 62, 107, 115, 155 

Giotto, 80-81, 177 

Giovanni da Bologna, 32, 63 

Giovanni d' Andrea (loannes Andreae), 

124; Hieronymianus, 124 
Giovannino da Mantova, O.P., 131 
God, 7, 80, 129-30, 133-34, 140, 142, 

145, 162, 163-64, 165 
Gonzaga family, 41; Francesco, 32, 71; 

Alda, 71; Margherita, 110 
Govemolo sul Po: battle of, 71 
Grammar: Latin, 8, 11, 14, 16, 34, 95, 

99, 101, 105, 177 
Greece, 8, 74, 144; disciplines taught to 

boys in antiquity, 98 
Greek language, 9-10, 23, 86-87, 105-6, 

126, 141, 142, 153, 157, 161, 173 
Gregory XH (Pope), 146-48, 151, 152, 

Gregory of Nazianzus, Saint, 8, 127-28, 

Guarini, Guarino (da Verona), 150, 159 
Giinther von Schwarzburg (Archbish- 
op), 153 

Halle, 153 

Hebrew language, 126, 142 

Hieronymite congregations, 124-25; 

Congregation of the ApostoUc Friars 

of Saint Jerome (Gesuati), 166 
Hieronymus, S. See Jerome, Saint 
History, 59, 60, 62, 97-98, 99, 109-11, 

118-19, 142, 145, 152, 157, 173 
Holstein: nobility of, 153 
Homer: Odyssey, 87 
Humanism, ix, 21-22, 24, 29, 36, 53, 60, 

72, 74-75, 125-35, 138, 140-41, 158, 

169-80; and Christian beUef, 130-34, 

Humanities {studia humanitatis), 35, 47, 

59-60, 95, 177, 180 
Himgary, 167 

Hus, Jan, 151, 154-55 
Hussites, 154-57, 176; four articles, 

Iglau: Diet of, 156 

Imola, 72 

Innocent VII (Pope), 85, 137-45, 151, 

Integrity. See Ethos 

loannes Andreae. See Giovanni d' An- 

loannes de Dominis (Bishop), 161 

Isocrates, 118 

Istria, peninsula of, 3, 5, 9-10, 63, 160, 

Italy, 3, 25, 33, 40, 48, 62, 71, 123-24, 
134, 154, 157, 159, 167, 170, 171, 175, 
177, 179; Roman province of, 9 

lustinus, 9 

Jakoubek of Stfibro, 155 

Jerome, Saint (Hieronymus, S.), 2-8, 10, 
15, 39, 59, 84, 120-35, 141-42, 143, 
147, 166, 170-71, 173, 175-76, 178- 
80; object of popular cult in Italy, 
123-25; miracles of, 124, 130-31; 
dream of, 126, 131-32, 142, 179 

Jerusalem: Latin kingdom of, 124 

Jews, 68, 76, 178 

John XXm (Antipope), 148, 152, 155 

Justin n (Emperor), 9 

Koper. See Capodistria 
Kutna Hora (Kuttenberg), 155 

Ladislas of Durazzo (King of Naples), 
119-20, 138, 140 

Lambertazzi, Giovanni Ludovico, 43, 
48-49, 64, 173-74 

Latin language, 9, 14-16, 43, 46, 61, 87, 
106, 109, 122, 126, 142, 153, 157-58, 
170-71, 177-78. See also Grammar 

Law, 12, 33, 34, 40, 52, 56-57, 59-60, 
61-62, 66, 73-74, 83, 86, 98, 99, 111- 
12, 117-18, 171-72 

Leonardi family, 164-65; Niccolo, 150, 
164-65, 177; Eustachio, 165; Giovan- 
ni, 165 



Letters {litter ae): discipline of, 16, 25, 
27, 46, 60, 89, 100, 126-27, 141, 178 

Liberal arts, 31, 34, 45-46, 90-92, 95- 
101, 134, 161, 164, 178 

Liberty (lihertas), 11, 25, 28-29, 32, 53, 
56, 57, 62, 78, 91-93, 98, 115-17, 125, 
127-28, 143, 148, 151, 165, 173; hu- 
manist conception of, 24; and free 
speech, 55, 57, 58-59, 112, 170, 171 

Libidinous desire (libido), 24, 27-28, 56, 
57-58, 59, 91, 94, 100, 114, 117, 118, 
125, 173, 179 

Logic, 11-14, 17-19, 21, 28-29, 33, 48- 
49, 95, 99, 130-31, 172-73 

Logos, 37, 53 

Loschi, Antonio, 138-39, 140-41, 169- 

Lucan (M. Annaeus Lucanus), 14, 158 

Lucca, 115-16, 147 

Lucio, Desiderato, 64 

Lucretia, 57-58 

Maccaruffi family, 112 

Malatesta, Carlo, 71-80, 134, 174, 178, 

Malatesta, Pandolfo, 78 
Malpaghini, Giovanni (da Ravenna), 

Mantua, 32, 71-72, 75. See also Gonzaga 

Martin V (Pope), 151, 155 
Medicine, 34, 61, 86, 96, 119, 161-62, 

Michele da Rabatta, 36, 45 
Migliorati, Cosimo (Cardinal). See 

Innocent VII (Pope) 
Migliorati, Ludovico, 138 
Milan, 20, 32, 48, 71, 108, 143 
Monselice, 114 

Montpellier: University of, 60 
Moral Philosophy. See Ethics 
Muggia, 63 

Music, 25, 95-96, 100, 101 
Mussato, Albertino, 131 

Nagy-Varad (Grosswardein, 
Mare), 165 


Nero (Emperor), 93, 117 
Niccoh, Niccolo, 81-82, 169-70 
Niccolo da Sagundino, 157 

Octavian. See Augustus 

Ohgarchy, 5, 36-37, 40-44, 49, 55-59, 
62, 66-67, 70, 103, 111-12, 116, 118, 
120, 130, 169-70, 170-72 

Oratory, ix, 21, 22, 29, 36-37, 39-49, 
53, 55, 57, 58-59, 61, 70, 72-75, 80- 
81, 97-98, 103, 127, 141-42, 155-56, 
161, 170, 171-78; deliberative, 43; 
judicial, 43, 47; epideictic, 43-47, 48- 
49, 55-56, 59, 70, 98, 126-34, 170, 

Orsini, Bertoldo, 154 

Padua, 11, 14, 17, 20, 31-49 passim, 51- 
52, 58-59, 61-63, 70, 71, 75, 81, 82, 
86, 87, 88, 92, 100, 107-20 passim, 
121-22, 132, 152, 154, 172, 173-74, 
176; University of, 12, 18, 86, 112, 
120; citadel, 31, 44; Euganean hills 
near, 35, 88n, 149; Commune, 40, 45, 
111, 112; Carrara palace, 43, 45. See 
also Carrara family 

Palaeologus, Manuel (Emperor), 87 

Pannonia, 122 

Pannonius, lanus, 159 

Parma, 115 

Passau, 153 

Pathos, 37, 49, 53, 94, 174 

Paul, Saint, 145 

Pavia, 87 

Pellegrini, Santo de', 17-21, 33, 63-64 

Peter, Saint, 145 

Petrarca, Francesco (Francis Petrarch), 
36, 41, 51-61, 66, 75, 78, 128, 131, 
171, 174; Africa, 51-52, 60-61; Epis- 
tola ad posteros, 59; relationship with 
Laura, 59, 93, 94 

Phidias, 75, 150 

Philip the Good (Duke of Burgundy), 

PhUology, 8, 82, 126, 132, 158, 179 

Piccolomini, Enea Silvio, 157-58 

Pilato, Leonzio, 87 

Pisa: Council of, 148 



Plague, 11, 15, 20-21, 59, 63, 87-88 
Plato, 78, 92, 101, 106; Timaeus, 15; 

Gorgias, 87 
Plautus, 22-23, 25 
Plutarch, 87; biographies, 109 
Poetry, 14, 24, 36, 60-61, 73-80 passim, 

93-94, 97, 99, 131, 140, 174-75, 179 
Poland, 160-61, 163 
Polenton (Polentonus), Sicco: Scripto- 

rum illustrium Latinae linguae libri 

XVIII, 38n 
Political prestige (dignitas), 57-58, 113 
Pompey the Great (Cn. Pompeius Mag- 
nus), 53, 56 
Prague, 152, 155 
Pseudo Cicero: Rhetorica ad Herennium, 

Pseudo Plutarch: "De hberis educan- 

dis," 103, 173 
Pseudo Seneca: De remediis fortuitorum, 


Rhetoric, 12, 22, 29, 34, 37-38, 43, 48, 
53, 62, 73-75, 81-82, 97-98, 99, 103, 
122-23, 125, 130, 132, 141-42, 144, 
149-50, 151, 170, 173-76, 179-80; 
stasis theory, 73-74. See also Decla- 
mation; Eloquence; Ethos; Logos; 
Oratory; Pathos 

Rimini, 71, 147 

Risano River, 9-10 

Robey, David, ix, 100 

Romagna, 63, 72 

Rome, 4, 8, 9, 14, 22-23, 40, 42, 47, 66, 
70, 74, 76, 82-85, 98, 126, 127, 129, 
133, 135, 137-48, 150, 171, 174, 176, 
177-79; Roman comedy, 23-25; Ro- 
man Repubhc, 23, 53-58, 74; church 
of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, 83; 
Pyramid of Gains Cestius, 84; Testac- 
cio, 84; Via Appia, 84-85; Roman 
Empire, 117-18, 122; church and 
canons of Saint Mary Major, 123-24; 
nobihty of, 137-38, 175; Castel Sant'- 
Angelo, 140; University of, 141 

Ronchi family, 112 

Rossi family: despots of Parma and 
Lucca, 115-16 

Rupert of the Palatinate, 82, 107-8 

Salutati, Coluccio, 12, 14-15, 16, 36, 

51-52, 60-61, 64, 131, 139-40, 146, 

154, 180; Letter on Virgil's statue, 72, 

78-80; reaction to De ingenuis mori- 

hus, 105-7, 140 
San Martino di Gavardo: castle of, 1 
Schism: Great Western, 82, 85-86, 129, 

134-35, 137-52 passim, 175-76, 179; 

Orthodox and Roman CathoUc, 85- 

86, 146 
Scholasticism: and the vmiversity, 29, 

95-96, 124, 151, 170, 172-73. See also 

"Art of Preaching"; Logic 
Science, 22, 29, 96-97, 98-99, 142 
Scipio, Pubhus CorneUus (Africanus 

maior), 51, 75, 105 
Scola, Ognibene, 87n, 154 
Scripture. See Bible 
Sdregna (Stregna, Sdrigna, Zrenj, Zrinj), 

7, 122 
Segna (Zengg, Senj), 161 
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, 18, 20-21, 22, 

29, 158 
Serfo, 106 

Siena, 147; University of, 22 
Sigismimd of Hungary (Emperor), 150- 

58, 160, 165, 176; Compactata with 

Hussites, 156 
Simony, 137, 144 
Smith, Leonardo, ix 
Sobieslav, Jan (Patriarch of Aquileia), 

62, 64 
Socrates, 102, 128 

Sparta: educational traditions in, 90, 102 
Stella River, 64 
Stridon, 7n, 8, 122 
Syria: desert of, 128 

Tacco. See Del Tacco 

Terence (Pubhus Terentius Afer), 14, 

22-25, 28, 35, 100, 159, 178 
Thematic sermon. See "Art of Preaching" 
Themistocles, 106 
Theology, 78, 124, 142-43, 155-56 
Thucydides, 87 
Timotheus: Greek master of lyre, 102 



Toul, 153 

Trevisan, Zaccaria, 36 

Turks, 86, 124, 167 

Udine, 62 

Urban VI (Pope), 143 

Varna: battle of, 167 

Vaucluse, 60, 174 

Venice, 3-4, 11, 53, 62, 64-70, 71, 108- 

9, 114-16, 119, 148, 154, 160, 162, 
176; maritime empire, 3, 5-6, 10, 15, 
69, 119; government of, 64-65, 66- 
69, 171; Arsenal, 66, 69; ritual of 
Sposalizio in, 67, 69; Cinque alia 
Pace, 67; original citizens, 68; soprac- 
consoli, 68-69; mainland empire, 69; 
Piazza San Marco, 69; Rialto, 69; 
island of Murano, 164 

Vergeri, Vergerio di Giovanni de': 
father of PPV, 1, 2, 3-4, 6, 11-12, 14, 
62-63, 87, 178 

Vergerio, Pierpaolo, the elder: birth, 1 

— childhood memories of, 2-4 

— cult of Jerome, 4-8, 84, 121-23, 125- 
35, 141-42, 147, 170-71, 175, 176, 

— ambivalence toward Capodistria, 8- 

10, 88, 176 

— travels as youth, 10-11 

— taught dialectic in Florence, 11, 12, 
13, 172 

— decision not to marry, 11-12, 178 

— Stoic ideals of, 12, 20-21, 29, 166-67 

— friendships, 12-13, 35-36, 164-65 

— rejected merchant's career, 13, 161 

— earhest education and handwriting, 

— taught logic in Bologna, 17-18 

— manifested symptoms of depression, 

— Ciceronian ideals of, 21-22, 53, 55- 
59, 80-82, 97, 106, 126-27, 133-34, 
142, 158, 171, 174-75, 177 

— analysis of war against Visconti 
(1391), 32-33 

— studies in Padua, 33-35, 52, 61-62, 

— classicizing oratory of, 37-38, 39-40, 
43-49, 122-23, 132, 173-74, 175-76, 

— editor of Petrarch's Africa, 51-52, 

— law studies in Florence, 51-52 

— curriculum for public life, 62, 97-98, 

— power of visual sense for, 75-77, 80- 
82, 101-2, 145, 165, 174, 176-77 

— condemned religious bigotry, 75-76, 
83-85, 152, 177-80 

— and Church reform, 85-86, 125, 128- 
29, 140-52, 175-76, 179 

— law studies in Bologna, 86 

— Greek studies in Florence, 86-87 

— tolerance in education, 99-100, 172- 
73, 178 

— bid to succeed Salutati, 146 

— association with Emperor Sigismund, 

— library of, 158-59 

— death, 166-67 

Works: Sermones decern 0erome pane- 
gyrics), ix-x, 2, 7-8, 39, 121-23, 125- 
35, 141-42, 147, 175, 176, 178-80 

— De situ urbis lustinopolitanae, 8-10, 

— Alegabilia, 14-15 

— Paulus, 22, 24, 25-29, 93-94, 100, 
159, 173 

— De dignissimo funehri apparatu, 41-43 

— Oratio ad Franciscum luniorem, 43- 

— Oratio in funere Francisci Senior is, 
46-47, 49, 173-74 

— Oratio pro Cermisone, 47-48 

— Epistola nomine Ciceronis, 52-53, 55- 
59, 70, 128, 171 

— Petrarcae vita, 59-60, 93, 94 

— Argumenta, 60 

— De republica veneta, 65-70 

— Letter on Virgil's statue, 72, 73-78, 80 

— Fragmentary letter on Rome, 83-85, 

— Carmen Francisco Zabarellae, 88n 

— De ingenuis moribus, 89-108, 119, 
140, 141-42, 150, 154, 173 



— De arte metrica (with Francesco 
Zabarella), 95 

— Carmen ad Franciscum luniorem, 

— De principibus Carrariensibus, 109-16, 

— De monarchia, 109, 116-19 

— Letter to Salutati in name of Inno- 
cent Vn, 139 

— <Oratio> (inc: O altitudo divitia- 
nim), 140 

— Poetica narratio, 140—41 

— Pro redintegranda uniendaque ecclesia, 

— Epitaphium (for Manuel Chrysolo- 
ras), 146-47n, 149n 

— Quaestiones de ecclesiae potestate, 1 SC- 

— Epistolary evilogy for Zabarella, ISl- 

— Translation of Arrian, 157-58 

— Facetiae, 159-64 

— Consolatory letters, 164-65, 167n 

— Dialogus de morte, 166-67 

— Testamentum, 167 

Verona, 20, 32, 47, 108, 112, 115-16, 

154. See also Delia Scala family 
Verzerio EI Luzz^igo, 1 

Vicenza, 108 

Vincent Ferrer, O.P.: Les Sermons Pane- 
gyri/jues, 132n 

Virgil (Publius Virgilius Maro), 14, 35, 
36, 61, 74, 75, 77-80, 97, 174; statue 
in Mantua, 72-80, 85, 134, 174, 177, 
178, 179 

Visconti family, 60; Giangaleazzo 
(Duke), 20, 31-33, 36, 42, 43-44, 46, 
47, 53, 58, 63, 71, 72, 82, 107-8, 134, 
137, 171, 176, 179; Caterina, 108 

Visual arts, 49, 75, 101, 170, 177 

Viterbo, 138, 143 

Vitez, loannes (de Zredna), 158-59 

War: of Chioggia, 3-4, 15, 34, 68, 69, 
125, 170-71; Hundred Years, 86 

Wenceslaus of Germany (Emperor), 33, 

Zabarella, Francesco, 12, 16, 33, 35, 43, 
48-49, 59, 64, 82, 85, 95, 101, 109, 
120, 139-40, 147, 148-49, 150-52, 
173-74; Letter in defense of Cicero, 
52-53, 54-55, 57; De felicitate, 88; 
named a cardinal, 148 

Zambeccari, Pellegrino, 36, 72, 78-80 

Zeno, Carlo, 119 

Pierpaolo Vergerio (ca. 1369-1444), a major figure in the third genera- 
tion of humanists, was himself the subject of some debate among leading 
historians of the early Renaissance, especially Hans Baron, Eugenio 
Garin, and David Robey (who gave somewhat too much emphasis to 
the view of Vergerio as a traditionalist). In this biography, however, 
what emerges is Vergerio's originality as the key to both his life and 
works on the one hand and, on the other, to his influence on fifteenth- 
century humanism generally. Essentially elitist in his approach, Vergerio 
was deeply concerned with the need to reorient education. He believed 
that Scholastic logic overstressed purely intellectual training at the ex- 
pense of the moral element which Vergerio himself deemed central to 
the worthy life. So he emphasized a trio of subjects essential to public 
life: moral philosophy, history, and rhetoric. At the same time, his zeal 
for church reform led him to the papal court where he used his position 
to try to influence Pope Innocent VII and later Pope Gregory XII to ac- 
cept humanistic teachings as a model for Christian detachment. All in 
all, he exercised a broad influence in the development of humanism, par- 
ticularly in the areas of epistemology, ideology, and educational curricu- 
lum, in the emphasis on ethos and its relationship to the university, to 
political authority, to religious belief, and to the visual arts. Finally, by 
emphasizing public service through oratory, Vergerio supplied a new 
matrix for Italian humanism.